Today I reconnected with an old childhood friend. A clueless comment from me brought forth from her a story of immense tragedy. Unfortunately, the story -- and the tragedy -- were hers. I could hardly believe she went through the tremendous losses she described. It made me so sad, and, really, left me quite speechless.
Tonight, as I think about her and pray prayers full of false starts and I-don't-understands, I am reminded of a book I read in college. Called "Man's Search for Meaning," it was written by Viktor Frankl and describes his time in four Nazi death camps, including Auschwitz. While incarcerated, his parents, brother, and pregnant wife all died. He witnessed and experienced immense suffering, and came out of it to write a book that has inspired people around the world to live with purpose.
His main premise is that suffering cannot be avoided, but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward from it a better man or woman. I see my friend doing this already and pray she will be able to do so more and more.
A couple of my favorite quotes from the book:
"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."
"He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how." (Quoting Nietzsche)