Death is imprecise and scary. It’s an unfathomable mystery. Yet I think it holds a lesson on happiness. I’ll tell you in my sideways fashion, ending with flowers.
I think we can learn about happiness from comments made about the deceased, rather, and incorporate them into our lives to live a happier life.
Why is this on my mind? A funeral was held on the corner across from my building today, and the turnout was large. An elderly man passed away, the founder of one of the synagogues. His coffin was borne out of the sanctuary that he helped establish and set out before the mourners. A microphone and speaker conveyed the comments made by one after another.
I regret I never got to meet this man. From the comments made by rabbis, community leaders, people who knew him, I gleaned he was kind, charitable, gave attention to people in an undemonstrative way, and did hidden good deeds. Certainly his sons and sons-in-law who spoke had appreciated and given honor to their father during his life and told him how much he was loved. But here, in front of the community, they wailed how much more they should have appreciated the father. They weren’t posturing for the crowd. These heartfelt words rang out to alert us all how much we must act to cherish people in their lifetimes. No amount of love or regard is too much.
So there is a lesson how to gain happiness: cherish others, give love, appreciate.
What is love? Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler said, “We don’t give to someone because we love them; we love them because we give to them.” I think there is some sideways corollary here about acquiring happiness. We gain happiness not because we are pleased with something, but we become happy because we do something to make a pleasant situation happen.
Here’s simple example: I like to look at flowers and plants. Yesterday I attended a tour of the Heather Garden at Fort Tryon Park. It added to my happiness because I consciously had in mind that I was going to appreciate the beauty and glean as much as I could from the experience. I wasn’t going just to go for the sake of going; I prepared myself for the experience of enjoying the garden. My appreciation of the garden fed my happiness.
Another: How do I get happiness in relationships with others? I thank them, they like being appreciated, it creates good will. Next time they deal with me there will be a kernel of kind regard for me. Simple equation. Be nice, get nice back. That’s a good basis for happiness.
I’m learning about happiness from everything around me, even funerals and flowers. Attitude has everything to do with happiness. I can choose to be happy.