Last week, Aaron came down with Pneumonia, and wound up in the hospital for a week or so. Yesterday, he got released to the nursing home which has become his home for the past couple of years, and probably will be for the rest of his time on Earth. I spent some time with him today and, probably due to his recent illness, which really took a toll on him, he was talking more than he usually would about the end of his life. He doesn't want or expect it to be imminent (he really wants to make 100, he told me), but he knows that he only has so much time left, and that, most importantly, it's out of his control.
But, what struck me today is what strikes me every time I visit him (and, frankly, what makes me look forward to those visits, which aren't frequent enough): his enormous, unfailing, sincere happiness. Every time I visit him - every single time, without fail - his main topic of conversation is his happiness. How lucky he's been in life. How full his life has been. How blessed he's been.
When I first met him, he was having trouble getting around his house, but he just wanted to tell me about how many good things he's had in life.
When I visited him while he was waiting to have his leg cut off, he said, "Well, my life has been wonderful. If losing this leg lets me live a bit longer, then it's worth it."
When I visited him while he was waiting to have his second leg cut off, he said the exact same thing.
Happiness. Blessing. Luck. It might get monotonous, if it wasn't so wonderful to listen to.
Like many of us, I can find plenty of things to complain about. And, I have my days when complain I will. But, on whole, I have far more to be thankful for. And, if someone in Aaron's condition can stay so singularly focussed on what's good in his life, then how can I do any less? How can any of us?
Towards the end of the Torah, Moses tells us that God has given us life and death; blessing and curse. Our job? To choose blessing. To choose life. The choice is ours.
L'chayim - to life!