Standing at graveside services for Phil, my friends’ husband, father, grandfather and brother, I was deeply moved to listen to the various eulogies shared by a friend, the deceased’s sister, his two children, and the officiating rabbi. Each shared specific and detailed stories about his great love of family, his innumerable friendships, his great wit, and his sheer zest for living life until the very end. Even in the face of disease, he didn’t merely survive… he lived!
In thinking about the way that Phil approached and valued relationships, I was taken with remarks that the officiant made in quoting a rabbinic scholar with four core principles for finding happiness:
- Have a positive outlook on life. Do this… right now… smile! What is the one thing you are most excited about at this very moment?
- Have gratitude. Even in our darkest moments, it is not difficult to think of all the things we are appreciative for. What is one thing for which you are thankful?
- Savor pleasant experiences. Close your eyes and think about a recent event or encounter that filled you with joy… seek to be present, always, in order to recognize these moments of bliss.
- Exercise optimism for the future. For what are you hopeful? Are you looking forward to something in particular?
In life, when we encounter new and often uncomfortable situations, Creative Think’s Roger von Oech encourages us to judge them focusing on their positive and interesting features. In doing so, we are able to counteract a natural negative bias and see the future in a more positive light.
With that in mind, as Brad, Phil’s son, said, Phil saved some of his best lessons for his dying days – he demonstrated the importance of living and dying with grace and dignity, interacting with loved ones, maintaining humor and, above all else, doing all of that with happiness.