I never really knew my Grandma Bertie. She died when I was just 3 months old. Every year, on her yartzeit, we would light the candle in her memory and I would hear the stories about this strong, loving, wise, brave woman.
My mom recently shared a newspaper article written about Bertie Gelles by our Rabbi, Dr. Hyman Judah Schachtel. I treasure these words:
She Enjoyed Life to the Last
“Today can be a beautiful day. If it isn’t, then it’s your fault.” The wise and valiant woman who expressed this noble philosophy and attitude toward life has passed from this earth, but thoughts of her remain with me as a great benediction.
Before she died, a relatively young person, she told me that God had been good to her, had blessed her with a rewarding life. She wanted no tears at her funeral.
She was ready to meet her maker in a spirit of love and thanksgiving. When I replied that her life had more than its share of trouble and woe and pain, she replied, “I forget the bad times. I recall only the good.”
Seldom have I met her equal. She teaches all of us how to live and how to die. In such a great soul we find the highest revelation of spiritual power and courage.
She shames our petty complaints, our greedy approach to life, our selfishness and our debasing fears. This unusual woman reveals to us that the task in life for all of us is to accept full responsibility for what we are and what we become.
She ridicules our proneness to make excuses for our for ourselves, to blame others for our failure, to grumble that life has been unfair. She belongs to that rare, gallant company of men and women in every generation whose gracious acceptance of the unacceptable, whose refusal to despair keeps life moving from strength to greater strength. Because she never cried out in terror, although she saw death approaching nearer daily, she was able to enjoy life to the very last second of its fleeting existence.
Remember her some day when you are disheartened and discouraged, when you feel lost and dismayed.
Here her saying “Today can be a beautiful day. If it isn’t, it’s your fault.”
Grandma Bertie, I carry your spirit in my heart everywhere I go. I’m deeply grateful for the legacy of your love, joy and courage.