The Attitude of an Auschwitz Survivor
I was blessed to stay at the Miami Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged while I was a patient at a nearby biofeedback clinic in 2001. While the results from my treatment were marginal, the experience of meeting an Auschwitz survivor was life-changing and has stayed with me.
Esther had 6 numbers tattooed on her arm. She was 90 years old when I met her. When I introduced myself, she acted as if she was meeting the queen; as though I was the most exciting person she had ever met. She listened carefully as I explained I had had a stroke when I was 35 and pregnant, and was in Miami for treatment. She was excited to hear about what I was doing in the biofeedback lab.
Esther’s world was a bit small living in an assisted living facility for the aged, but at 90 she approached every situation with more positivity than anyone I had ever met.
One day my sister and I told her we would go for a walk with her after dinner. You would think we told her we were taking her on a cruise. “Oh, boy,” she said, “we are going on a walk!”
Esther seemed perpetually glad for whatever life was throwing at her. Everything was better than what she went through as a child in Nazi Germany as a Jew.
There were three elevators in the building next to each other. When they had to be serviced, and everyone had to use one elevator, it was inconvenient and tried everyone’s patience as we had to wait longer. I was in the one working elevator with Esther when a crowd got in with us. People were complaining about how crowded it was.
While everyone else was grumbling about being crowded and having to wait so long, Esther was excited at the prospect of having enough people together for a party. “Oh boy, we can have a party!” she said. It immediately lifted the mood of everyone.
I enjoyed my time with Esther. She appreciated every second of her life. She reinforced my attitude of gratitude I have had since I survived a debilitating stroke in 1999 when I was 35 and pregnant. We talked about feeling lucky to be alive at length.
Most of us can examine our circumstances more carefully when we think things aren’t going well for us. If we look a little deeper, we can appreciate that every day above ground is a good day.
I will always remember Esther and her constant appreciation of simply being alive. It was something I shared with her when I told her I had nearly died during the sixth month of pregnancy when I was 35 years old.
I’m sure Esther is long gone. She will live on in me and my sense of gratitude forever. I hope reading about her perspective will instill this sense of profound appreciation for life in others.