The Wisdom of Miriam (age 95)
by Hillel Fuld
Visiting the wife's 95 year old grandmother, a woman who survived the nightmare of Auschwitz.
Five lessons she taught me in three days:
1: What you think matters? It doesn't really matter.
Miriam Rothstein is 95 years old and her memory isn't great. Naturally throughout the conversation, she says things and a few minutes later, she forgets and says it again.
So what are the things she said most often throughout the three days in which we spent time with her? Money? Belongings? Nope. She spoke about how she always dreamed of living in Israel but can't because of her health.
She spoke many times about how happy she is to have family and how thrilled she is to see us here. She spoke about family, about life, about love. That is what she knows matters most and it served as a great reminder for me.
2: Don't take anything for granted. And we all do.
Her sight isn't great, her hearing, her hands, things we all have and take for granted. Don't.
Everything we have is a gift and every time you hear a friend ask you a question or you simply pick something up with little to no effort?
We should be grateful because nothing should be taken for granted.
3: Memories are mental treasures.
At the end of the day, and she should live for many more years to 120, all that sticks are memories. She speaks of her grandchildren and how they were as kids.
Somehow that she remembers and remembers it in such amazing detail! Because memories stick forever. So live life and make memories.
4: Laughter is endlessly powerful.
As we tried to make conversation, somehow I kept feeling sad. With all the physical symptoms of old age, it just made me sad.
Then one of my jokes got through to her. She asked how old Estee (my daughter) is. I replied "She is 6. Soon? A chasunah (wedding)"!
She laughed and with the laugher, her color changed. She comes to life. Laughter is so powerful. We should all laugh more often.
5: Just appreciate life.
We are here on a trip in California and the grass is always greener. The cars? Wow. The houses? Wow. Everything is wow.
Yet somehow Miriam can't stop talking about Israel and how much better it is there. And she's right, but sometimes you need people to remind you that what you have is really a gift.
Just appreciate everything you have because no matter how bad you think you have it sometimes, it can always be so much worse and you have endless gifts you can be thankful for.
While old age deeply saddens me on the one hand, Miriam is an amazing woman who has lived a phenomenal life and raised a beautiful family. And whether or not she realizes it on the surface, deep down she knows that is all that matters. Something very reassuring about that. And that is the biggest blessing anyone can ask for.
Until 120 years.
Please add a comment below if you have a life lesson that you learned from a Jewish grandparent or elder.
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