An Old Woman and Life’s Greatest Lessons

I was recently at a funeral of a family member and I was struck once again at the truth behind how life simply boils down to the goodness of a person. People at funerals don’t talk as much about the level of wealth, power or fame someone achieved, but more about who they loved and how they loved, and the rest of it just seems to fall by the wayside. This particular funeral was for a woman named Margie Lipman who also wrote an “Ethical Will” to convey what she learned in her 98 years to the rest of us. She shared this gift with me and because of its inherent wisdom I’d like to share it with you.

Here it is…

How can I tell you, my children, and yours
The lessons I’ve learned in a lifetime of years?
How can I recount my triumphs and failures,
The insights I gained through my joys and my tears.

What should I give you of wisdom and vision
The truths that now seem so clearly to see?
I view the world from a whole new perspective,

Perhaps I can share it, a small gift from me.

Keep your sense of awe at the wonder of nature,
Look each day at the miracles God has bestowed.
Reach out to help those who ache for some comfort,
Search for the ways you can lighten their load.

Look for the good that is there in each person
Don’t dwell on their failing, your efforts are vain.
Spread joy and laughter though you may be hurting’
The joy will come back to you over again.

Live as God planned so you help one another
Let the world be better because you are here.
Do all of God’s mitzvot (good deeds) with caring and pleasure
Your reason for being, then is surely clear.

From beyond the grave she gives us the gift of perspective to pay attention to the miracles all around us and not get so consumed by the small stuff that in the end doesn’t matter as much.

She reminds us of the important of connection, giving and loving when she says, “Reach out to help those who ache for some comfort, search for ways to lighten their load.” This is a simple piece of wisdom, but one that escapes us in the minutia of the day.

Probably one of the greatest pieces that she shares with us speaks of compassion when she says, “Look for the good in each person, don’t dwell on their failing, your efforts are in vain.” Our brains get consumed in the automatic negativity bias, amplifying people’s failures at times holding deep grudges and cultivating the dis-ease of disconnection. What would life be like if we inclined our minds toward the good a bit more? Would it “come back to you over again?”

The real question is what would the days, weeks and months ahead look like if you lived this ethical will?

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on

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