When I was in college at Villanova University, a Catholic school, everyone was required to take a religion class every year. The first class in my senior year, a young priest showed up, and after writing his name on the board, proceeded to reach into a box and take a bunch of communion wafers and toss them out into the room.
It has been two years since Mariah died. I still struggle with understanding it, though some might think it was inevitable. I never did. Nor did she.
I’ve been rereading “Man’s Search For Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. It’s about a psychiatrist who suffered through four different prison camps in Nazi Germany. The hardships and deprivations he encountered were horrendous, yet he managed to live and even come out of it and live a meaningful life.
Mariah was about living life to the hilt. She enjoyed and found meaning in sunsets, walking up steps in Machu Picchu, watching the scrambling chipmunks in our back patio, touring museums in Paris, playing with grandchildren. She found meaning in her work, the constant source of her nourishment while supporting, caring and loving others to be our best selves.
Frankl discovered that the search for meaning often includes suffering, which we may not have control over but can find meaning by choosing how we cope with it. Mariah had ALS, which slowly debilitated her body, but not her mind, heart or spirit. She found meaning in laughingly trying to stab a grape with a fork in her ravaged right hand, while also reminding clients that what she carried physically was no worse than what they carried emotionally. Finding meaning in her own debilitation, she told us all that ALS “…has been my teacher, co-therapist and friend. It has propelled me into the arms of those I love. Most of all, the counsel of Death has heightened my awareness of and presence in the here and now, which is all we have for certain.”
Today I’m taking the opportunity to honor my Mariah, go forward, and continually search for meaning that warms the heart, wherever I can find it.