SOUND MIND, SOUND BODY: Friendship a source of lasting lessons

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I had a good friend at the YMCA, Jack Morrison, who was at the time the oldest living continual member of our Walla Walla YMCA until his fairly recent passing at the wonderful age of 95.

Even through his years of flying for the Air Force during the war, he never let his membership lapse.

I spent time at the Y talking with Jack in the last few years of his life and still love to recall many of those stories. Most of our time together was spent in an adult fitness aquatic class I teach.

You could almost set your watch by his consistent attendance and it was clear to me that he understood the value of regular exercise.

When Jack would get into the swimming pool for class, there were always seven or eight ladies who loved to give him hugs as he entered. This went on for many years ... I taught the class, Jack got the hugs.

I remember a day in November 2008 when the economy was bad. Jack came into the pool and he only received two hugs that day.

He came up to me and said, "Jeez...this economy problem is really messing with my hug supply!" We laughed and on with the class we'd go.

There was another time he told me he hadn't gone to church from about age 10 to age 80. He said his wife, Kay, finally talked him into going two years after she had started to attend herself.

Curious how Kay was able to sway him, I asked Jack how his wife specifically talked him into going to church. He looked at me and said, "She just TOLD me I was going that day, and I went!" We laughed and he said he'd been going to church ever since.

Jack loved his wife very much and anyone who saw them together could clearly see that they were very much in love.

If I remember correctly, she loved to ski and he loved to golf. He told me that when they were first married, she told him his golfing was a waste of time and they could be together more if he just didn't golf so much.

But he talked her into golfing with him and he said she was really good at it. I asked if she was better than him and he said, "Come on JR ... she wasn't THAT good!"

I miss Jack, our laughs and our conversations down at the Y, but the lessons I learned and keep in my memory from the few years I knew him stay alive inside of me.

You may be asking why I would talk about my friendship with Jack in the Health & Fitness section of the local newspaper. It's because I believe that Jack had a very good balance of spiritual, mental and physical health that many of us could benefit from.

There are many things about Jack that I loved. Others may know him differently, but below are a few traits I saw in him that inspired me to lead a more healthy and rewarding life -- traits I feel are beneficial to spiritual, mental and physical well-being:

Dependability -- Jack was very trustworthy. I could always rely on him to do what he said he was going to do and be where he said he was going to be.

Tact -- Jack seemed to deal with people in a manner that maintained good relations and avoided problems. He always appeared polite and calm, but firm when needed.

Bearing -- Jack carried and conducted himself in a manner that reflected competence, confidence and control.

Selflessness -- I couldn't imagine Jack making personal gains at the expense of others. He was very considerate of others, giving credit to those who deserve it and not blaming others for his shortcomings even if it would have made him look better.

Loyalty -- Jack was very devoted to his wife, family and friends and it showed in the way he spoke of them.

Justice -- Jack was fair, consistent and seemed to give consideration to each side of a situation before making a decision on something.

Integrity -- I found Jack to be consistently honest and truthful in whatever he said and did. His words matched his actions and he seemed to put honesty and sound moral principles above all else.

To narrow Jack down to a few great character qualities is hardly sufficient to describe how much I appreciated our friendship. My hope is that by sharing our brief friendship I'll be able to take what he gave me and reflect it back in ways that I can hopefully help others and better my own life.

And while many of us miss Jack down at the Y pool in the adult aquatic fitness class that I still teach today, one thing I think Jack would laugh at if he were to peek in today -- he'd notice that since he's been gone, I've been getting all the hugs.

JR Loe is the aquatics director for the Walla Walla YMCA.

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