Wednesday, December 18, 2013


One is the Loneliest Number 

“She built herself a little house,
All walled about with Pride:
Took Prudence as a servant,
And locked herself inside.
She drew the blinds down tight as tight,
When sorrow chanced to roam.
Experience called – she sent down word
That she was not at home.
Then, wherefore, should she now complain
And wherefore, should she sigh,
That Life and Love and Laughter
Had passed unseeing by?"

Two events of this past week enabled the subject of today’s blog to hit me in the face:

a) The sudden death of a dear friend who took his last breath while out to dinner with his wife; and

b) a 'Letter to Amy', the current Ann Landers of the printed news, in which the writer told how lonely he was since the passing of his wife, and suggested that he needs people around him - but apparently has no friends - only a dog - to help him through his ordeal.

The lesson to be learned from these events is that as we take the journey through life we should never forget the importance of building loving relationships with others. 

We are all human; we all need it. Loneliness, unfortunately, is all-too-natural -- and perhaps inevitable. But, until we get there ... 

In the events I have described, the wife of my friend - who along with her husband were at my side constantly throughout my own wife Anna’s ordeal and afterwards - have continually, along with an unbelievable cadre of other friends, made sure that I am not alone.

The writer of the letter obviously, as so many widows and widowers have told me as I write my book, never took the time to establish meaningful relationships, and instead built a wall around themselves and the world.

As  I myself have learned, we live at a time when our relatives are aging, our children often do not live close to us and we are longer involved in business relationships.  Many of our friends are ill and coming to life’s end; if we have not begun at an early age to establish much-needed friendships, we to will be sad and lonely as we travel our last miles.

So, plan your life early, never let go of relationships that are meaningful and be there for them when they have a need, as you would want them to be with you during happy, as well as lonely, times of your life. 

Remember, a friend is someone with whom you can get undressed emotionally.

Read on ...

Dear Ann,

Over the years I have derived a great deal of pleasure from your column, and as a physician I commend you for the fine job you do in the health field. 

Here is something that a friend sent me in the mail recently. I don’t know who wrote it, but it gave me the best laugh I’ve had in a long time. I hope you will share it with your readers.

Your Friend (Name omitted for ethical reasons)


Everybody who has a dog calls him “Rover” or “Boy”.’ I call mine “Sex”. He’s a great pal but he has caused me a great deal of embarrassment.

When I went to city hall to renew his dog license, I told the clerk I would like a license for Sex. He said “I would like one too!” Then I said, “But this is a dog.”He said he didn’t care what she looked like. Then I said, “You don’t understand. I have had Sex since I was 9 years old.” 

He winked and said “You must have been quite a kid.”

When I got married and went on my honeymoon, I took the dog with me. I told the motel clerk that I wanted a room for my wife and me and a special room for Sex.

He said “You don’t need a special room. As long as you pay your bill we don’t care what you do.”

I said, “Look, you don’t seem to understand. Sex keeps me awake at night.” 

The clerk responded, “Funny, I have the same problem.”

One day, I entered Sex in a contest, but before the competition began, the dog ran away. Another contestant asked me why I was just standing there, looking disappointed. I told him I had planned to have Sex in the contest. He told me I should have sold my own tickets. “But you don’t understand,” I said. “I had hoped to have Sex on TV.”

He said “Now that cable is all over the place, it’s no big deal anymore.”

When my wife and I separated we went to court to fight for custody of the dog. I said, “Your honor, I had Sex before I was married.” The judge said, “This court is not a confessional. Stick to the case please.”

Then I told him that after I was married, Sex left me. He said, “Me too.”

Last night, Sex ran off again. I spent hours looking around town for him. A cop came by and asked, “What are you doing in this alley at 4:00 in the morning?”

I told him “I was looking for Sex.”  

My case comes up on Friday.

I don't know what the moral of that joke is, other than, maybe: If you're feeling lonely, get a dog. 

A note to my Blog readers:

If you my Blogs are meaningful to you pleases share them with your friends on Facebook and other social sites. The more persons who read them, the better and more successful our publishing endeavors will be.

Many thanks,

Bernie Otis

Bernard ("Bernie") Otis is the author of the upcoming international bestseller, "How To Prepare For Old Age (If You Haven't Married Into A Wealthy Family)". If you have a question or comment, or a personal story about life and aging, please send me an email to

Thursday, December 12, 2013


What is the most important decision that we must make in our lifetime?

The Minister of a Methodist Church in Wisconsin was invited to giva speech at a local Rotary Club. The topic was “Marriage and Sexual Relationships.”

He was sitting in his home office writing the speech when his wife walked in and asked him what he was doing.

He told her he was preparing for a talk at Rotary and she asked him what the topic was. Not wanting to tell her the real topic, he said it was about "sailing boats." She was surprised, but said nothing more and quietly walked away.

Several days after the speech had been given, she was in the market shopping when a man called out to her: “Ms. Miller, hi! I am Larry from Rotary and I want to tell you that the speech your husband gave was the best I have ever heard”.

She said, “Really, I am amazed.” He asked her why, to which she responded, “He has only done it 3 times. Twice he got sick to his stomach and once he fell off the boat.”

What can I say? A bit of laughter is always good before the serious stuff.

And now ... the serious stuff. 

Decisions, decisions ... decisions. 

Every day of our lives we are faced with making choices that will determine our daily and long-term well-being and happiness.

Where should I get my education? What career should I pursue? What help do I need? Where should I live? Am I in love? What do I do about my health situation? Etc.

Sadly we are also faced with life and death decisions of not only our own, but those of our loved ones as well.

Not until I began research on my book, and at the same time began my own experience living in an assisted living center surrounded by the aged in various stages of their journey, did I realize the singlemost important and agonizing decision individuals, as well as their loved ones, have to make. This decision is not whether to pull the plug ... but when is it essential to give up our independence before we hurt ourselves or a perfect stranger.

Let me share a real life situation:

"Maria" is an active woman in her early-eighties, sweet, attractive and full of energy; she just cannot understand nor remember what is going on around her or what happened five minutes ago.

When I met her last year, she had just moved into my assisted living center and was still driving her car (I could never understand why nobody stopped her)She had family close to where she lived and appeared normal in every respect other than being in a fog.

I found myself helping her with various things including finding her room at all hours of the day and night and finding her keys and so forth.

One day (it was 95 degrees outside), she called me and told me she was locked in the back seat of her car, which was parked in front of a major shopping center. I phoned the police, the fire department, AAA and the department store security, and immediately went to where she said she was parked.

Without going into more detail, we got her out, and I drove her back to her residence and tried to reach her family without much success. She had misplaced her keys. Eventually, we found the keys, brought the car back and finally her family reluctantly took the car away.  

Back to the issue of independence. Almost daily we hear of innocent persons being killed by elderly drivers who should not be behind the wheel of a car.

Someone needed to make this decision for her. She got lucky, as the decision was made very late. 

Let me close today’s message with this thought:

Of all of the five senses, “seeing” is the most important - even if you are, technically, "blind."

When we walk into a roomful of people, we “see” what is happening (and, if you are blind, the other senses compensate to form the equivalent of vision - in my opinion; "seeing" is a metaphor). When we wake up in the morning and look at the sky we “see” how beautiful the sky is. Likewise, when we look at a person of any age we can “see" what they are like and what mood they are in, and what needs they may have. When we "see," and we do, our aging loved ones having difficulty walking, remembering, in pain, etc., you are guilty of neglect if you ignore the symptoms. If you do ignore these symptoms, and are not willing to understand the danger of these situations, the fault if something happens - qute honestly - is yours. 

Wmust all be alert and prepared to act when we “see” the danger ahead.

I will say it one more time, in another way. If I get "blue in the face," so be it. The most recent studies on aging, death and dying clearly confirm that as many as 70% of the crippling injuries and serious illnesses resulting In death are due to falls by the elderly. These falls are most frequently followed by long hospitalizations - and often death - due to pneumonia. All of this is a ramification of failure to recognize and act on the need to give up one’s independence.

Remember, our journey from life to death can end prematurely if we fail to "see" the obstacles in our roadway, or not making the decisions necessary to avoid them. 

Bernard ("Bernie") Otis is the author of the upcoming international bestseller, "How To Prepare For Old Age (If You Haven't Married Into A Wealthy Family)". If you have a question or comment, please send me an email to

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Have I left enough for my family, or other loved one(s)?
Have I made a difference in this world?
Could I have done more?
Have I helped enough people?
Have I treated people well?

Have I had enough s--?

A 78-year-old man was having some problems and he went to the doctor. The doctor said he needed to get a sperm count and gave the man a jar to fill up, telling him to bring it back the next day. The next morning he returned the jar to the doctor and it was empty. The doctor asked what happened and the man said he had a terrible time and could not do anything.

He said he tried with his right hand and then his left. He called his wife to help and she tried with her left hand, her right hand and her mouth ... nothing. They called in the lady next door  - the doctor asked, “You did what?” - and the man said she tried with her left hand and then her right, but they could not get the jar opened.

Okay, okay. I couldn't resist!

And no, before you get nervous ... I'm not dying. Yet. Not really.

Doctor says I'm healthy as an ox.

But, just this morning, I had a conversation with a friend. This friend got me thinking.

He told me business is slow. He will need to start pulling from his retirement accounts to keep his business afloat.

He said his cost of living now exceeds $250,000 a year, including taking care of his two children.

My friend is 60 years old.

He worries about his wife. He worries if he planned - there goes that word again - well enough.

His greatest fear is: "I've saved money and have a good life insurance policy for my children. But I worry that they are not self-reliant. How do I know they will be capable of earning on their own once their inheritance runs out?"

And so it goes.

With apologies to Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," my friend's tale is "as old as time."

I write these blogs and keep pounding home the same point: Plan! PLAN!!

Understand, however, that planning in itself is a life-long process.

My friend is like me. He doesn't fear dying so much. And he still has goals, both professional and personal.

I still need to complete my book.

He still needs to get his affairs in order. Though, I admit, he is further along than most.

Planning needs to be part of your day. It's just like brushing your teeth, taking a shower.

Keep a journal. Or keep a log of some sort. Write down every way you planned, every day.

Remember, the sum total of all your efforts will cumulate into something wonderful, and necessary.

In that event, the seeds of your planning will bear fruit, that will protect your loved ones for generations to come.

In closing, keep setting goals as well. It may well help you live longer ... which will give you more time to plan.

Have I made myself clear?

Bernard ("Bernie") Otis is the author of the upcoming international bestseller, "How To Prepare For Old Age (If You Haven't Married Into A Wealthy Family)". If you have a question or comment, please send me an email to

Friday, December 6, 2013


Shortly after an elderly white-haired woman visitor left their home, a young girl said to her mother: “If I could be such a beautiful, sweet, and lovable person I would not fear getting old.” To which the mother replied, “If you really want to be that kind of an old woman, you had better start now. She does not seem to me to be the kind of work that was done in a hurry."

David’s grandfather was something of a philosopher and never missed an opportunity to give out bits of advice to his grandson. One day he said, “Remember David, fools are certain, but a wise man is hesitant.” David then asked his grandfather, “Are you certain Grandpa?” Patting David on the back the grandfather answered, “David, I am absolutely certain.”

So ... 

Why do I write about the aging process, and then tie it together with the subject of "youth?" Well, maybe it is because when most people hear about "aging" and "preparing for death," they think that only old people die. 


During this past year alone, the media has been reporting on car crashes, serious and rare diseases, murders, violence etc., and the majority of these incidents involved the death of young persons under the age of 30. 



Consider this:

Howard was a wonderful young man who, from his earliest years, wanted to be an engineer. He studied hard all through high school and went on to a major University. This, despite the fact that his traditionally-oriented parents did everything possible to get him to change direction.

No matter. He graduated with honors.

He married his high school sweetheart, had two lovely children and was on his way to a great career. He was one of my dearest friends. The day after my father passed away, he and his wife came to visit me and he was fine.

Several days later, I learned that he was in the hospital. I rushed to the hospital to determine what had happened and he told me that the day after he visited with me he had suddenly become quite ill. He was diagnosed as having a terminal kidney disease, and died 60 days later at the age of 32. In tears, we held hands the night before his passing.

I'll leave it to you to figure what happened to his family. Needless to say, they weren't all that far down "Preparation Road."

Remember ...

If one wants to become successful in any field of endeavor it requires preparation, an education - be it formal, on the job, or in specific trade type school - and goals. 

My friend had goals. Unfortunately his family was left without him. 

Did he plan at that age? Did he not? Again, while you figure out the options, here is my thought on the matter: 

Never wait until it is too late. Plan as soon as you have the ability to do so. 

Chances are, Lady Gaga has more money than you ever will. She will do just fine, thank you. Going to a Lady Gaga concert may be great once, twice ... who am I to say? But take some of that time and money and - to enjoy life's journey to its utmost - get ready, get set ... and go. 

Be smart, whether you are young or old, and have a wonderful weekend ...

Bernard ("Bernie") Otis is the author of the upcoming international bestseller, "How To Prepare For Old Age (If You Haven't Married Into A Wealthy Family)". If you have a question or comment, please send me an email to

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


A short blog today. No jokes, pretty straightforward. 

I promised to disclose the "secret" to a happy and meaningful life. 

But first, please welcome the arrival of my new great granddaughter, seven pounds of beautiful - Caroline Partin! What better way is there to begin a blog on the Meaning of Life?!

May she have a world of happiness and good health ...

In that spirit ...

If you knew that this was going to be your "last" day of life, how would you spend it?

But wait! Didn't we cover this ground last week? Yes we did. You see, the "secret" has been in front of you all along.

As for me:

If I knew when I was going to die I would get up on my last day, and ...

Tell my close family and friends how much I love them;
Help a person(s) in need;
Do something that I always enjoyed;
Return to my home and spend my last hours in the arms of the woman with whom I have an emotional and meaningful love.

But, even if I did not know this was going to be my last day - this is how I want to live so as to have a happy and meaningful life until the end.

That is a reminder from my last posting.

And that, my friends, is the meaning of life. My "secret," if you will.

Doing whatever it takes to live a happy and meaningful life.

It is sad to watch so many of those we love and care for suddenly finding themselves, along with their families, faced with the realization that death is inevitable and they are resolutely unprepared.

"I have lived my life, made my mistakes, tried to atone for them and dedicated myself to helping others. That is what I do now each day."

These are the most profound words that I know on this subject. They were written by one of, if not the, most respected scholars and teachers - Rabbi Joshua Heschel in his “Man Is Not Alone”. He continues:

“The deepest wisdom man can attain is to know that his destiny is to aid, to serve ... This is the meaning of death: the ultimate self-dedication to the divine. Death so understood will not be distorted by the craving for immortality, for this act of giving away is reciprocity.  Man’s part for God’s gift of life. For the pious man it is a privilege to die.”

Each one of us, from the time of our birth, has an opportunity imbedded in our minds and hearts regarding the concept of choice. The choice of being able to do good or evil, be strong or weak ... to change the course of our lives and achieve a high level of happiness.

The choices that we make will determine whether, when we reach our final years, we will just give up and quietly await our last breath, live out our final years in anger over the process of aging or, despite our physical, mental and past experiences seek meaning every day of our existence.

In past blog postings I described the beautiful marriage I had with, and the devastating loss of, my beloved Anna, who inspired me to write these words. What I did not mention was my own personal experience that followed shortly after her passing.

I live in constant pain, suffering from various physical ailments, and I am unable to live alone. I chose to move into a Retirement/Assisted Living facility so as to not be a burden to my children.

In making this move, I was able to continue following my business profession as well as community work, which has been a long-time commitment. I did not consider having or wanting a social life, as I was quite happy with the beautiful memories of the past.

What I did not expect was to suddenly find contentment and happiness living not only with a group of physically and emotionally impaired wonderful individuals, as well as many who are,  like myself, alert, socially active and for similar reasons as mine slowly moving on with their lives.

In addition, because I am determined to live my life in a positive manner, I found that despite many obstacles there are individuals with whom we can befriend and confide in, and even love, when that warmth cannot always be shared.

This blog comes from my heart, and I believe that each person - as they reach this period of life - can feel that excitement just as a blind person who cannot see, but can feel love and does so on a daily basis.

In closing, I urge you, the reader, no matter where you are on the road of life to stop and take inventory of who you really are and how you can begin to live every day of your life as if it were the last. In the final analysis we are given the choice of living until we die - or accepting death before we die.

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Bernard ("Bernie") Otis is the author of the upcoming international bestseller, "How To Prepare For Old Age (If You Haven't Married Into A Wealthy Family)". If you have a question or comment, please send me an email to