Posted by: Rael Kalley | January 7, 2015

104. We could all use a grandma like this.

Last week I introduced The Habit of the Glass Being Half Full and yesterday morning I received a call from Frederick who told me about his grandmother, Miriam.

Miriam was a young girl, growing up in Germany when one day her life was turned upside down by the sudden arrival of a group of soldiers who came out of nowhere, rounded up her entire family and shuffled them off to a train.

She spent two days on the train, crowded in a cattle car with no food, water or washroom facilities.

When the train stopped she was separated from her family and never again saw the parents, her brother, and her two aunts and her grandfather.

Somehow, Miriam miraculously survived the next few years and after the war made her way first to France and then to London where, at age 23, she met a young man, Harry, who too was a concentration camp survivor.

They married and raised three children including Hannah, Frederick’s mother.

For most of his youth, Frederick shared a home with his parents and grandparents and, as his parents were both required to work, he spent much time with his beloved grandmother.

One day, when she deemed him to be old enough to understand, she told Frederick the story of her final few moments with her own mother.

They all knew what was about to happen when the train came to a halt and they were ordered off, and her final memory was of her mother kissing her gently on the forehead and instructing her to, “Keep smiling things will be better tomorrow.”

Those were the last words Miriam ever heard from her mother and watched helplessly as her whole family was dragged away by men in uniform.

Miriam told Frederick that every day spent in the horror of that camp was a day for her to remember those final words, “Keep smiling, things will be better tomorrow.”

After being liberated from that camp Miriam found herself alone, afraid and uncertain about what the future held but she stoically reminded herself daily of the need to, “Keep smiling for tomorrow will be better.”

And she practised thinking about a better tomorrow, about a happier tomorrow about a tomorrow filled with every dream she’d ever had and she slowly began to build a life for herself.

In France, she endeavored to learn the language as rapidly as she could while doing menial jobs to survive, all the while believing in a better tomorrow.

Frederick went on to say Miriam’s life was filled with challenges from the early death of her beloved Harry to the challenge of raising three children on her own while managing her own health problems.

He said he never once saw his grandma without a smile on her face and a conviction that screamed that matter whatever happens today, tomorrow will be better. Miriam found opportunity in every disaster and possibility in every challenge and her mantra shaped Frederick into the successful and always optimistic man he has become today.

Frederick lost Miriam five years ago when at age 91 she succumbed to a respiratory disease.

As she lay dying with her family gathered around her bedside Frederick’s swears her final act was to take his hand in hers, put a smile on her face and say “Keep smiling for tomorrow will be better.”

The Habit of the Glass Being Half Full was Miriam’s gift to a family and to the world and Frederick believes that her commitment to this habit of endless optimism was what enabled his beloved grandmother to not only endure the many hardships that life threw her way but to beat each and every one of them.

The Habit of the Glass Being Half Full.

Sure as heck beats the alternative.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.


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