My beloved father-in-law, may he rest in peace, was an irreplaceable figure in my life. He passed away just about a year ago, on New Year's Day in fact, and the grief remains as raw as it was on Day One.
Dad taught me a lot of things about how to survive. But the most important one, which I have never read in a self-help book, was this: Happiness is a constant state of gratitude even when you are in losing mode.
He should have been very angry. The Nazis took everything he had. He was deprived of his home and education, despite a brilliant aptitude for finance.
But Dad knew how to calculate profit and loss, and the beginning block of business is unsparing honesty to the end.
Like the time I joined Etsy on a whim and tried to sell handcrafted junk jewelry.
"Hey Dad, look what I made."
"It's homemade jewelry. You can go online and sell it now."
"Who's gonna buy that garbage? Who would manufacture it cheap enough?
Gratitude meant that he thanked G-d every day for his job. And he had an uncanny ability to show respect for the boss, no matter what he personally thought of him or her.
If anyone complained about their boss to Dad, he would always respond, and make me laugh:
"What's the problem? Just smile at them and say 'fuck you' under your breath."
To the very end, Dad was grateful. After Mom passed, may she rest in peace, he contracted pneumonia. And a short hospital stay turned into assisted living.
No more going to synagogue three times a day.
No more trips to Trader Joe's for cherry ice cream.
No more three-hour phone conversations with his lifelong friend about politics, and their mutual predictions for the stock market.
Dad became a man I did not know very well. He sat placidly on the couch and smiled.
He didn't seem frustrated that he could not run around.
He didn't ask the other ladies in the home to change the channel.
He dressed proper, and ate the food they gave him, and said thank you very much to the lady for cooking it.
The week before he died, we knew he didn't have much time left. But he insisted that we take our vacation as scheduled.
And when we came back, and visited him, something told us all that it was the last day.
We sat in his room and held his hands and his head to our flesh in the dark, and we spoke to him though he seemed on the surface only semi-conscious.
He gave us a proper goodbye, and before it was over he thanked my husband for taking good care of him all those years.
Dad knew gratitude from beginning to end, and that was the lesson he taught me.
He was a happy man who taught me what it means to be happy myself.
I miss him terribly.
Copyright 2015 Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of BrandSuccess, a corporate content provider, and co-founder of the brand thought leadership portal All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole. Contact her if you would like to request support.