I am reading a great book that I had read some time ago but had not picked it up for some time. The book was "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. Viktor was a psychologist in the Nazi Death Camps, having laboured in four camps including Auschwitz. As one goes through the pages reading the encounter of a man who had everything taken from him, his brother, his parents, his pregnant wife, Viktor maintained that one cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. An astounding account in the book showed a camp block warden confided in Viktor that he had a dream that they would be liberated on March 30th. As the man shared his dream and excitement of the impending release, but as time drew nearer the news that the war showed no sign of slowing down, and on March 29 the block warden suddenly became ill, and the following day, March 30th, he died. The loss of hope was translated to his immune system and since there was no reason to live another day, he didn't. There was also a rise in the numbers of deaths around Christmas as many prisoners held on to the hope of being home for Christmas, and when that reality did not occur, they lost hope and their body, weak and sick, simply shut down.
Over the course of my life, I have met people who I admire who have shown such courage in the face of loss, and many of my historical hero's showed consistently that if our why is strong enough, we can endure anything. Viktor Frankl spent time imagining lecturing to a group of professors about what he witnessed during his time in the concentration camps, so much of his time was not focusing on his own suffering, but took an objective view of how he and others handled the suffering. He witnessed those who turn angry and violent and became oppressors of their fellow captors, he witnessed those who became apathetic, and soon died because of their lack of reasons to live, but he also witnessed courage, kindness and compassion as well, though in small supply.
I doubt any of us here today will ever have to endure the hardships like those who suffered in the concentration camps, but reading these accounts and giving pause to my own life, I certainly owe it to the memory of those great souls to take the suffering as it comes as a part of life, but to never loose sight of my why in life, and to accept the lessons offered by the trial and tribulations life offers as badly wrapped gifts, whose only purpose is strengthen my resolve.
C. David Gilks Your Fellow Traveler
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