The lesson of one life.
Years of rage had built up inside me, because of the uncontrollability of life. I was young and healthy enough not to believe in God, but I did anyway, so that I could judge and punish him for making my life so hard. Uncle Lev’s belief in God died in 1944, six months before he was liberated, and one minute after he had found out that his wife and daughter had gone up in smoke at Mauthausen. I asked him one day, out of my own frustration, how he managed to live with this for so long without being consumed with rage or depression, and he answered me: “Well, Velvel (my Yiddish nickname), I made everything that happened in my life, necessary.” “But I don’t understand, uncle Lev,” I replied impatiently. He took his time to think it out a little more for my sake, and spoke again: “By learning to love who I was today, I made yesterday necessary.” I responded slowly in my befuddlement, and finally uttered a dismissive “oh, ok.” Seeing my annoyance, uncle Lev resumed with even more patience, “you see, Velvel, most people live their present trying to make up for their past, thinking that’s the only way to be happy in the future. I live my present as if it had been earned by my past, and that left me free to choose my happiness, never mind the future. The future always brings what it brings.” Uncle Lev died several years later, sometime in April of 1991. I was too young to understand then, but I understand him now.