Updated: Nov 19, 2020
Vickor Frankel, the famed world war II Psychiatrist, and the author of Man’s Search for Meaning, which has been listed as one of the ten most influential books in the United States, by The Library of Congress, is who I have been thinking quite a lot about these past few weeks. The seeds for the famed book were planted within Frankl as he analyzed his horrid surroundings and the temperament of his fellow prisoners to theorize their chances of survivor.
Frankl writes in his book that the meaning of life is found within every experience, every moment, and life never seizes to have meaning even in the direst of circumstances. He looked onto his fellow prisoners and theorized that those whom held on to a hope or dream that they would achieve or work towards after the war, had a greater chance of survival. Perhaps his main point was that each person has “freedom of choice”, even while he is suffering.
Like never before, does this book have personal meaning for me, as the country is facing one of its direst of circumstances within recent history. The virus that has taken over every aspect of our daily lives and placed us in the midst of a national crisis with no end in sight. The most heartbreaking moment for me is reading accounts of people who are sick, alone in a room, suffering with no one to give them a bit of comfort. And even more terrible, is the fact that people are dying alone and many, many others are mourning alone.
So, what is one to feel these days? How is one to respond to this terrible pandemic that is like a runway train, quickly approaching a cliff?
Well, as Frankl states in his book, “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.”
So, in a time that everything seems to be taken away from us, we still have the power to control our responses, and our actions. We still have the power to make our bed in the morning and get dressed.
I have been so inspired by many people who have stepped up and have decided to make a difference when everything is so bleak. Hundreds of people sewing masks in their living rooms to be donated to a local hospital. Others have organized food delivery service and purchase and delivery food to those within us who truly cannot leave their home, lest they become inflicted with this deadly disease. Yet, others volunteer their therapy services to the front-line nurses and doctors who are witnessing to so much trauma that can leave ghastly images within their minds that can truly affect a person for their entire life.
And perhaps the greatest act of courage and control is of Suzanne Hoylaerts who was hospitalized and in desperate need of the lifesaving ventilator. But what she did when given a ventilator is nothing short of heroism. She reportedly told doctors, “I don’t want to use artificial respiration. Save it for the younger patients. I already had a good life.” She died two days later.
What a way to respond with dignity, and pride, and more than anything, with control over ones outlook and response to a situation that is truly dreadful. Rest in Peace Suzanne.