Baheej means joyful -- keeping a positive attitude

  • Joyful Baheej about to eat stuffed squash in Paraguay!

    Joyful Baheej about to eat stuffed squash in Paraguay! Courtesy of Susan Anderson-Khleif

Posted9/28/2019 7:00 AM

My husband Baheej's name means joyful. And he was indeed a happy person, full of joy, curious, interested in others, and with a zest for life.

At one point he went to university in Holland and even enjoyed the Dutch weather, frequently overcast and often raining. He thought it was cozy, not gloomy. He said, rain is barakah, a blessing from God -- especially when needed for the gardens or drinking wells.


If we are lucky in marriage or with our partner, we learn many good and important ideas and behaviors from them over the years, and they learn from us. Such lessons are extremely helpful when dealing with and managing grief.

I am a naturally optimistic and positive person, but I can honestly say that Baheej influenced me to be even more so. I absorbed it by example.

Even when a big problem arose, he found a way to turn it to the positive. He used an old folk wisdom saying from his childhood -- Don't hate it, it may turn out for the best, and that there is an opportunity to turn it to something better. It was his version of "If you only have lemons, make lemonade."

This is so true and thinking that way helped me at many turning points in my life and career.

He also found great pleasure in nature and all the senses.

He carried a one-pager of advice to himself in his writing backpack. One item he wrote is this: Enjoy the senses and their combination -- hearing, vision, mental, smell, touch.

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He titled these notes to himself the Joy of Life. He laminated it and it was with him at all times. Now I carry it in my purse. And I take it out and read it every so often

I thought I was a nature lover, but from Baheej I truly learned to look at nature, notice details, and take more pleasure in its beauty.

And he had this effect on other people. Years ago he used to walk with our neighbor Frank every morning at 5 a.m. before going to campus to teach. We lived out by a lake, so they walked on a pretty country road.

At first Frank always talked about his problems, business worries, etc. But after a few weeks of walking with Baheej, no more dwelling on problems -- instead they looked at the flowers, the leaves, the birds, wild turkeys, and the changing seasons.

He found a lot of joy in little things. I have a favorite photo of Baheej in Paraguay of all places, and he had just been served a plate of koosah mashi, which is zucchini squash stuffed with ground lamb and rice, spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. He had that special impish smile of enjoyment on his face. He was anticipating eating his meal with pure pleasure and so surprised to find such a dish in that little village in Paraguay.


Baheej found sources of joy all around him.

If he ever felt down, he consciously addressed it and fought it, and found a way to return to a more cheerful state of mind. He wouldn't give in. He was very self aware.

Baheej felt every day is a new day, a fresh day, and that it's in our hands to make it a good day.

Of course we all must handle life's problems and challenges, and Baheej certainly did that as needed, but he didn't dwell on the negative, he solved problems and put them behind.

So the point is: Let your memory of good ideas, qualities, and ways of living learned from a beloved spouse or partner help you and the family cope with grief, cope with the sadness of losing him or her. I do this all the time. And it helps me immensely.

• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a Ph.D. in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College, and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at or see her blog See previous columns at

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