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Franz leaned back in his chair, massaging the bridge of his nose under his eyeglasses. It was 4:45 pm, nearly time to leave. He sighed and then his eye caught the photograph of his wife, Anna, and daughter, Greta. Anna was sitting on the arm of the sofa looking down at Greta with a slight smile on her face, while Greta beamed at the camera. They were dressed in their best clothes, which were modest by German standards, but the style of their clothing was overshadowed by the intimacy and pure love they shared. Greta held her favorite doll in her lap, one passed down to her by her Grandma. She called the doll Rebecca as her grandmother had. Franz touched the glass covering the photo and moved the frame closer.
He was a bank clerk and he had been in his current job for five years. He wasn’t a stellar employee but a reliable one, never having missed one day of work. He had enjoyed the work environment, although lately it had started to change. Colleagues who had once smiled at him or returned his smile, or had stopped by his desk to chat seemed to have distanced themselves. He continued to be courteous to everyone, but he felt as if he were becoming invisible. At least when he arrived home that evening, he would be greeted with delight.
He had no way of knowing that when he kissed Anna goodbye that morning and stroked Greta’s hair, the leave-taking would be the last time he would see them.
* * *
Three Years Later . . .
Shivering and feverish, Franz curled up on the boards that were meant to be his bed. He was trying to hold on to hope. One month ago he’d had a dream where a voice had told him that the camp would be liberated on March 30. In spite of the late hour, it was still March 30. He knew he was deathly ill, but the voice had been so insistent, so persuasive. But March 31 was only hours away. And he was tired. Cold. Beyond desperate. There were only the smells, the lice, the hunger, the deep sadness. Maybe if he closed his eyes for only a moment . . .
* * *
This little story was created from a tale in Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Forty years after reading the book, the story that Frankl told of the man who was certain he would be liberated, and died when he was not, has stayed with me.
We live in a time that is secular, materialistic, and without grounding. The ideas that helped people create stability and meaning, such as families, values, and community are disappearing. If you were to have a discussion with an acquaintance, and you asked her what gave her life meaning, would she likely respond to your question with a blank stare or ask what you meant?
I am grateful that most of us on Ricochet would understand that question and would know what it means to live a life of meaning.