Lessons From A Life Well Lived

Today is the anniversary of the death of  my Uncle Jakob, I have been thinking about him all day and wanted to share a post I wrote last year about what a special man he was.uncleyakobthennow

Jakob Schaffer was given a Blessing for “long life” from a Rabbi  in 1937. The words of the Rabbi to Jakob were, (as translated from Yiddish to English)

“You are going to live a long, long, long healthy life. You have come from and crossed many frontiers. No man, no enemy, will have the power to put a hand on you. L’chaim and sholom.”  (Life & Peace)

Uncle making breakfast at age 106

And so it was to be, Jakob Schaffer did live a long and healthy life, passing away just 2 months shy of his 107th birthday, in 2010. He had traveled to Israel just 3 months before his passing, spending two weeks visiting with family, going to the Western Wall, never sitting still for a minute.

I met Uncle Jakob in 1999, while doing genealogical research on my husband’s family tree. I was given his name and number and told he would have many of the family answers I was looking for. I was in for a great surprise. At the age of 96 it was remarkable that he remembered details from his childhood growing up in Poland, the  names of family members, and how people were related to each other. He filled in all the blanks, and was able to bring to life the members of the family. We discovered that Jakob was a first cousin to my husband’s grandfather, but we took to calling him Uncle as we came to feel such a close bond with him. He and his wife (who died in 1990) never had children, and I was happy to step in as adopted granddaughter!

His vitality was amazing at such an advanced age. He took no medication. He took care of himself with no outside help. Nothing ever fazed him. He took everything in stride. He was always optimistic, positive and focused. When something would be troubling me he would always say, “Everything pass, no need to be upset or worry, because everything pass.”  These words have stayed with me- reminding me during challenging times- I can hear his voice in my head.

He lived alone in his condo until the day he died. He cooked for himself, did his own laundry and shopping. He felt he could do his shirts just as well as the cleaners, so he washed them himself and then ironed them. He always took the stairs, and shopped at the local supermarket and carried home his groceries himself. Often on a Sunday, he would take the bus to the local mall, just to walk around, sit and have a coffee, or shop. He enjoyed just being out among people.

He was blessed with good health until one week before he died. Did he have a healthy life because of his positive attitude? Because of the non judgmental way he lived his life? Was it his fierce independence that continued to drive him? Whatever the reason, he set an example to be followed. To look at the cup half full, not empty, to think positively about people even if they differ from you, to get out and go. And to remember that when things get hard, this too shall pass.


17 thoughts on “Lessons From A Life Well Lived

  1. […] I found many first cousins had married, (including my husband’s grandparents) I also learned how entire branches of the family were decimated by the Nazis. My head was swirling with dates and names and who was related to who. I found someone who turned out to be my husband’s 3rd cousin who lived in England, who told me of a relative who might have information. He was 96, but he might have answers. So I called him. We figured out he was a 1st cousin to my husband’s grandfather. And he remembered EVERYTHING. Names, dates, places, who was related and how they were related. It was amazing. Our tree took on new life, the branches grew, pages of connecting family. We spoke everyday, and I came to call this man Uncle Yakob. His father & my husband’s great grandmother (the lady in the picture above) were brother & sister. He actually remembered her. More amazement. I wrote about him here. […]


  2. What an amazing man. He obviously made a great impression on your life. He sounds very like my MiL. I wonder if she will also live for so long. She has less than four years to go until her 106th. 😃


    • yes, reminds me of your mother in law too! Wonderful attitude I believe has so much to do with it, and taking things in stride. A lesson but a hard one of that is not one’s nature to begin with! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ‘He was optimistic, positive and focused.’ I think Uncle Jakob’s spirit was with me today–I need him. What a lovely, remarkable man he was, Lisa. Beautiful post.


  4. What a wonderful story and legacy from a wonderful niece! God knows the numbers of hairs on our heads and how many years we will walk the Earth. You hear everyday how more people are living longer and into their 100s. Cheers to your family to have been blessed to have him in your lives.


  5. Wow….I would have loved to meet this man. What an amazing story and attitude. you were truly blessed to have spent time with him. God bless his soul.


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