My sister's father-in-law passed away a few weeks ago. Bob Belle was a great guy. Even though we didn't see much of each other over the years, we shared a special connection, based on a mutual dry sense of humor.

Most of the time we joked about life, poking fun at the absurdities we observed.

But occasionally we'd contemplate serious things, like the time we talked about the futility of fretting over stuff" we wished we had. We decided that worrying about things we didn't have wasted the treasures we possessed.

Upon hearing of his death - on Oct. 20 in Belleville, Wis., at the age of 87 - I recalled our dialogue and was grateful for that discussion, which greatly affected my way of thinking.

Did Bob know how much I liked him? How many of us tell the people we care about how important they are to us? I'm guilty of failing to do this, not only with good friends but with my children and the rest of my family. Now that Bob is gone, there is no way I can tell him how much I enjoyed our exchange of ideas.

Perhaps because we are getting close to Christmas and a new year, I'm feeling sentimental. My dad died on Dec. 13, 2003 - nine years ago to this day.

My dad, Herman B. Goldberg, was a terrific father, a wonderful man and a great provider. He was 89 when he died in Fort Lauderdale.

I can't remember if I ever told him how much I loved him. Did he know he was my hero?

Another subject Bob and I talked about was having an obligation to change the world if we didn't like the way things were going. This type of project is difficult, but he believed you could make a difference one step at a time. One of my mantras is "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."

The key is having the wisdom to know the difference. Saying these words often calms me when I'm faced with unbearable sorrow or acute frustration.

Changing things takes perseverance. Years ago a friend of mine formed a group that went to China with a desire to help people living in rural areas. For $400 a well, the group cleaned up community wells that people used for washing clothes, bathing and boiling for cooking and drinking.

Not only did this charitable organization clean the wells, but it ran pipes to each of the small homes so people had cold running water outside the door. My friend saw something that needed to be done, and she was relentless in her crusade to help these poor people. I greatly admire her. But have I ever told her?

Yesterday while discussing life with a good friend, he said, "The best part of my day is getting up in the morning and enjoying whatever I do that day." This sounded simplistic until I considered it. I thought of folks suffering from major illness, or people who cannot get out of bed by themselves in the morning. A feeling of gratitude enveloped me, an aura of well-being. Because even though I have my aches and pains, I'm able to get out of bed in the morning, have a cup of coffee and when the sun comes up take each of my dogs for a long walk.

The conversations I had with Bob Belle enabled me to focus on the pleasures of life and empowered me to embark on a voyage of changing what I could. Our in-depth conversations pointed me in the direction of living a life of laughter and eagerness.

So, Bob, wherever you are, thanks for helping me feel gratitude for what I've accomplished. I look forward to the days left for me to enjoy the sweetness of life.

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