Life is unconditionally beautiful and meaningful, even in the face of the most painful suffering. For the better part of my life, I have doubted this. This is the story of my sister and I on our journey through pain and logotherapy. It is a story of hope and promise. It is a paradoxical story of reaching the paradise of meaningful living in the face of tragedy. It is a story which practically illustrates the profound value of logotherapy.
Almost half a century ago we were born eighteen months apart. As happens to most children, there was our fair share of family dysfunctionality. To elaborate on this would forfeit the purpose of this story. Let me suffice to say that we had our fair share.
In spite of this, we received three precious gifts from our parents.
Gifts from our parents
My father made us aware of the importance of spirituality. The picture of him kneeling next to his bed in prayer each morning before he took on the world, will always remain a fixture in my mind. I often stood watching as a little girl. I can never forget his folded hands and the gentle, vulnerable and earnest expression of his face.
My mother gave us the gift of magic, the world of imagination, stories, books, make-believe and lots and lots of fun. She knew how to transport two little girls right into magical forests where fairies, dwarfs, and the tooth mouse live. When I was scared she came up with a quick solution. “Just think of fairies and dwarfs!” Looking back at this as a rather seasoned human being and psychologist, it was a logohint that appealed to my soul. Whether it was the only answer a little-scared child needed on an emotional level, is a different story. But this argument will be saved for another time, another place. This is a story of hope and magic and not meant to investigate the faults that parents make.
We received a third gift from our parents. This was one another!
In spite of the normal sibling conflicts we had, we were close playmates. We played, played and played! My sister could read and write fluently before she went to school. I was the teacher and she was the sometimes reluctant pupil!
We grew up and our lives took different turns. We both got married and had children. She developed into a businesswoman par excellence and I kept on playing house. A white picket fence and nappies on a washing line somehow appealed to me. I spontaneously escaped from the harsh realities of the real world. This escape into the magical world of fairies, dwarfs, babies and books and studying was more than enough for me.
Finding my purpose
Twelve years ago, I took the lead as I always did when we were little. This time I took the lead with experiencing suffering. This was the first time I was really consciously confronted with the challenging nature of life. This time my escape mechanisms would not be enough to pull me through.
My world fell apart when my marriage failed and the financial security I had always taken for granted with it. It was as if life was saying, “Now it is time for you to start living mindfully, there is a task waiting for you.” This was certainly a fairy in disguise. I saw it as a horrible monster at that stage. Not so anymore!
My muscles for the art of living were exercised to the point of exhaustion.
Again, the details are irrelevant. Remember, this is a story of hope, healing and purposeful living!
During these times of depression, devastation and financial impoverishment and excessive responsibilities, my sister were always there to make things better for me. She was my most loyal and encouraging support system. She could lift my soul when everything was dark, blurry and too difficult to face. Thanks to this, I survived, I was en route to connecting to my specific purpose in life, my ability to self-transcend. That was to become a healer of emotional damage and helping others to find their unique meaning and purpose.
A promise that beauty would rise
Four months ago my life changed once more. On a Sunday night in June I received a phone call which still rings in my ears and dreams. My sister phoned me on her way to the hospital. Her beautiful and gifted only daughter had committed suicide.
In spite of the devastating shock, I instinctively knew that this telephone call had changed my life. I did not know exactly how I just knew that it had. My most prominent thought was to get to her as quickly as possible. Her controlled agony and devastation cut right through the most delicate parts of my being. It was perhaps the most painful experience I have ever had. Perhaps the most difficult part of it for me was that I could not carry it for her. It was hers and I was rendered helpless to make it better.
All I could do for my sister was to be by her side and walk with her, listen to her, encourage her, be sensitive to her needs and above all to love her as best I could.
I knew from the minute I received the devastating news that I would be the one who would accompany her when she went to say her last goodbye to her daughter in the physical realm. It so happened.
I walked into the funeral parlour with her a step or two behind me. Beautiful and angelic, my niece lay in her coffin. There was an expression of complete peace on her face. I touched her cheek and beckoned my sister to come and stand next to me.
What we saw was the physical remains of a little girl who had been too delicate for the suffering and challenges of this world. She had exercised her own freedom of will, she made a choice to move on. We had to respect her decision. Maybe she knew that out of her ashes, beauty would arise.
I took my sister’s hand and made a promise. I would, with everything I had at my disposal, help her leave a legacy for her daughter. In terms of logotherapy, this was a logohint I had picked up without even realising it during an intimate, transparent week together. A week of immense suffering.
It has been five months since I received the dreaded phone call. Beauty has indeed risen out of the ashes. My sister has started a wellness centre in memory of her daughter. In spite of her suffering, she made a deliberate decision to go forward and find meaning. She tapped into her deepest resources. Not only has she grown immensely on a spiritual level, but she used the skills she knew best, her business expertise, to make a difference to the lives of others. This was a passion on behalf of her daughter.
Carefully and meticulously she planned her wellness centre. It is already running. Several charity programs have been identified towards which her profits will go. I have not let her down on my promise. We are now business and life partners.
She is now leading and I am following. Together we are trusting the process.
What a privilege it is for me to be part of this. Life is undoubtedly beautiful.