Monday, December 28, 2009

A Happy New Year

Joe was always looking forward to something so I wasn't surprised when he sent the description of this cartoon on in November.  I thought it proper that I fulfill his request and post it this week.  Joe changed the caption a couple times. Originally it was to “decide if we want to go on”, but Joe never had any doubt about that. Later he sent another possible caption suggested I make the choice.  As I went about drawing the cartoon I took the creative license Joe offered, making Joe one of the two characters and changed the “if” to “how”.

There could be many footnotes to Joe Taylor’s life, maybe that’s because one of them would be “He wasn’t finished”. At the age of 90, in his essay Life as a Spectator Sport, Joe expressed his desire to live to the fullest extent possible for as long as he could because he found life so interesting. Many people who have appreciated Joe’s approach to life have taken the time to write and share their sentiments. Joe’s daughter Barb has graciously assembled a selection of thoughtful salutes and comforting words sent by card, letter, and internet. Words can never convey the friendship and love we found in Joe, but if each of us go on to live our lives as fully as he did, then his life will be made more complete. Joe commented that his memoir was different from others, because it was the story of a happy life. In honor of Joe, let’s do the same starting with a happy new year.

Thanksgiving 2009

Tributes from friends:

Some measure a life lived in years.
Joe lived 94 years and that is the least important thing about him.  Junctures in his life where others began retreat signaled new beginnings for Joe.
Defiance in the face of gravity an time took this soldier though space and time as if unaware of ordinary expectations.  His airy countenance and his love of the spirit and importance of the moment defied age and provided those who met him with a sense of the eternal.
I guess I never thought Joe would die.  I still don't.  Somewhere a twinkle shines and a sixth career is well underway.

Joe and I have been friends for more than 40 years.  We met when I applied to him for a job at the Association for Jewish Children in Philadelphia. When we met, there was an instant "click".  We worked together, often had lunch and talked about poetry and politics, thoughts and feelings, and shared our perspectives on life.  His wife, Gerry, and he often joined my family for holiday dinners; we still miss both of them.  Joe was warm and sensitive, a unique man with wit and humor, insight and clarity.  He could right through the most complex situation and isolate the essential elements.  I talked with him just two days before he passed away; he was his usual upbeat self and eagerly looking forward to the publication of his memoir.  I look forward to reading it.  I hope you are too.

Just an amazing man and writer and musician. I am so grateful to have met Joe and Gerry. To his family remaining, peace in the valley
He was an interesting and extraordinary man, who got the most anyone could from life. We could all learn a lot from your dad.
I was always happier for time spent in his company, or reading his blog. Joe's wisdom, warmth, and appreciation of his fellow man never diminished with age, and stand as an inspiration for us all.
Your father was one of the most inspiring people I have ever met in my life and I feel so grateful to have known him. He matched word and deed seamlessly and he will be greatly missed.A very fitting tribute to a really special man. I always felt better about life after talking with Joe.
Joe was such an incredible, loving man, a pure joy to speak with and share time with...his passing leaves a deep void in all of our lives.
I feel there's always a reason that people are brought into our lives. Joe was a mentor, a friend, and he taught me so much. What a gift.

I am so sorry to hear about your dad's passing. I am also so enchanted and amazed at the man he was and how he will be remembered. You must be so proud. Such a wonderful legacy
I thought about Joe’s unfailingly creative spirit and the outlets he found for expression…The whole process of his book’s creation engaged and energized him when so many of we, oldsters are sleepwalking.
Very impressive look at an even more impressive guy. I was amazed at your dad's energy and accomplishments when I met him, and I obviously only knew a small part of his gifts. All the more to love, and, sadly, to miss.
Your Father sounds absolutely incredible, and his blog is a pleasure to read. An amazing man!

Thank you for sharing his blog with us. I really enjoyed reading his words.
With his daughter Barb and son Paul

Joe was a remarkable man -- creative, thoughtful and wise. I enjoyed reading his submissions each year to the Marblehead Festival of the Arts and marveled at his wit, concern and imagination.
I was so sorry to hear about your dad, but am thrilled that you sent out some of his writings. I'm so sorry I never had the opportunity to experience his quick wit and immense wisdom. The selections you sent are fabulous and really touched me, so in your time of sorrow, enjoy and draw solace from the wealth of beautiful words he left to inspire all.
I was so saddened by the news of your father. I would love to have known such a distinctive man.....such an interesting life!
I am so sorry to read of the death of your father. I did read some of his blog posts and wondered if it was truly an accident that he was conceived or more of a miracle.
What an amazing guy! His wisdom and kindness, humor and smarts will endure and always color my world.
As a prospective Marriage and Family therapist, I sought him out to compliment him on his wonderful and wise essay on love and relationships….He was, and will remain, a real inspiration to me regarding what one can accomplish in one's lifetime given the right combination of persistence, wisdom and humor. What a pleasure to have had the opportunity to meet this wonderful and vibrant man.
Our deepest sympathy for the loss of your very special Dad. Joe was such a sweet, intellectual man. We tremendously enjoyed the times we spent in his company. I look forward to reading his memoirs.
In these last few years, Joe's blog and his memoirs were exciting to track.
I was so looking forward to attending his book-signing. It is wonderful he completed his memoirs and they will be ready to share with everyone soon. His footprint in life will live on forever. He was an amazing and inspirational man and I shall miss him very much.
Thank you so much for your generous sharing of your love for your Dad. It reaffirms what we know to be true... in the scheme of things... that such a man as your Dad needs to be held by us closely, dearly, diligently so that we can learn from his example of the true, honest, and real sensibilities of life and the living of it. I am grateful for your sending me this link and will read and re-read the wisdom within. Just for now his words... to recognize... " the many millions who unassumingly make our society worthwhile. We are the renewable energy of the earth," become a needed/desired mantra for those of us who need to rededicate and realign our lives to his sensibilities and try to set in motion a more vibrant and alert society. Clearly... he led the way.

Thankfully his memoirs are published and his stories and philosophies will be with us forever.

I so enjoyed him. He was unforgettable.
Thanks for everything Joe. Though you lived long, your time was too short. May your presence be ever apparent through the lives and smiles you have inspired.

I took a quick look around and quickly found your father’s blog. Wow! Just a few words from some excerpts of his work were enough to blow me away. What wisdom and insight he had, and about so many subjects. I can’t wait to read more…. It’s obvious that there aren’t many people like your father

Your father was a true intellectual with a great warmth whose range of conversation and wit knew no bounds.  I'm so glad to have met him.  He represented a generation that brought so much enlightenment to younger people.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Finish Line

On December 5, 2009 Joseph L. Taylor made his transition from this life. He will be missed by all who knew and loved him as well as those who never met him because Joe brought something powerful and amazing to every life he touched; a strength of character and conviction that was compelling and contagious.

The following excerpts are taken from the chapter entitled The Finish Line in his memoir My Five Careers:

This memoir is almost finished, and before long, so the life. In one way, the end to living will be a relief. Philip Roth said, “Old age is not a battle. It’s a massacre.” I want to go before the carnage begins. Should an account of one’s life end with a rhetorical flourish, a counterpart to the long, lingering, soaring thunder and defiance in the ending to the last movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, or should it end with a wail of sadness that one’s life is coming to a close? (The Beethoven analogy is fitting, because the music also does not want to end). What if one feels defiance in the morning and sadness at night? Or feels both ways at the same time? It doesn’t matter. All of the endings are valid but futile attempts to thumb a nose at personal fate….

….My story is both gratifying and scary in terms of the random. We come to life through the most fortuitous of events. If I had been conceived a day sooner or a day later - or even in a different minute or hour of the day of my conception - I, the person I am, would not be on this earth, for there is no chance that the same sperm and egg would meet again. That observation is humbling. I am an accident. I began this memoir by saying that I have a story to tell. It is utterly beyond comprehension to think of the billions of men and women on this earth who also have stories to tell. It takes effort to live a life. If harnessed, the energy of spirit alone, from despair to jubilation, spent every moment of time on the tawdry and the sublime, the evil and the noble, the ordinary and the singular, could power the planet…

….If this memoir has struck a blow for Everyman, I have accomplished my secondary mission. As the grave of the Unknown Soldier is a symbol for the many millions who have died in wars fighting for this country, so a Statue of Everyman should become a symbol for the many millions who unassumingly make our society worthwhile. We are the renewable energy of the earth.

Two final observations: I am prepared for death. Everyone who has ever lived has also died. That’s the deal. Death is personal, but it is not personal.

When it comes to Joe's appreciation of random events in shaping our lives, it doesn't seem too ironic that his passing coincides with the long awaited release of his memoir, My Five Careers, which includes Out of My Mind, his previously released collection of essays, short stories and verse.

If you would like to get "more later" as Joe always signed his blog posts, you can get a copy of his book by clicking here.

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