Do I fear death? Yes.

Have I ever faced death? Yes.

I have been in car crashes and motorcycle crashes, floods and fires. I’ve been in hurricanes and typhoons and part of a combat zone. I spent decades traveling the world, working in shipyards under all kinds of conditions. And for five years, I worked in the most dangerous environment I had ever seen at that time, the offshore oil industry.

In these days of forced restrictions and coronavirus panic, I am reminded of an event in high school that led to a philosophy that I try to live by. Here is my story about the fear of death:

It was the mid-1960s, a time when we were just starting the physical fitness kick, eating better and exercising more. The family of a school friend were all involved with healthy living, avoiding sugar, eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking milk instead of soda and, especially, exercising.

I was invited to their house one day to meet the family. My friend’s father had been a boxer in college and still maintained some of his habits of weightlifting and jogging. As he told me, “I want to stay in shape and live to be 99!” And he seemed determine to do just that.

Unfortunately, shortly after that meeting, he came down with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Within a year, he had passed.

My friend was devastated and turned very bitter at life. He told me: “What good is taking care of yourself, trying to live a long and healthy life, if something as stupid as a disease can cut you short?”

I didn’t have an answer at the time, but I didn’t forget his emotions or his comments. Over the years, I would think of him and his anger.

After years of martial arts training, after seeing the world while in the military, after starting a family and rediscovering my faith, I developed a personal philosophy that covered my friend’s question.

We shouldn’t think too far into our personal future; no one knows how long he or she will live, so no one can make definitive plans for an unknown future. But if you want to be healthy and happy, do if for now. Switch to a proper diet that protects your blood sugar, your heart and your weight, and you will feel better today.

Exercise is good for the body and the mind, whether it’s gym workouts, dancing or gardening, it will make you feel better today.

If you eat well and play well, every morning you will wake up happier. Live for today and not tomorrow.

Practice morality and healthy living, and you will be happy, and maybe live a long life.

Embrace monogamy, keep life sacred and remember the golden rule. Defend the innocent and protect the helpless. Respect the flag.

If you should happen to wake up one morning and realize you are 99 years old, you will be glad for every good day you had. And you will still be happy. 

— Melancon lives in Arabi

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