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Love and Meaning

by Margaret Wachholz

There are untapped sources of meaning all around us – right here, right now.  Seekers of meaning like Viktor Frankl, Aristotle, George Eliot & more educate us on the power of Love & Meaning. In some cases their hope was stolen: they were punished for doing what was right and were cast out of society.  But they did not turn away from love, meaning, truth & standing up to oppressors.

We obsess about how to live—but do we talk about how to die?

Do we obsess in this country about how to eat and dress and drink?  Do we obsess about the job, our spouses our children? Do we obsess about whether we are politically correct and preface most of our sentences to clarify that we aren’t something we obviously are not? I think most of us do obsess on how to live.  But, do we talk about how to die?  We do not talk about death with the honor it deserves; as one of life’s greatest, most absorbing challenges, one of utmost meaning. Death the great prompter as without it we would often never initiate or stop that which we do. As Ernest Becker points out, “The irony of man’s condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens our anxiety, and so we must shrink from being fully alive… and  Beyond a given point man is not helped by more “knowing,” but only by living and doing in a partly self-forgetful way. As Goethe put it, we must plunge into experience and then reflect on the meaning of it. All reflection and no plunging drives us mad; all plunging and no reflection, and we are brutes.”  When you are at the bedside of the dying, you are stripped of everything.  Everything but love.  It’s a ministry of being present & it’s a very meaningful right here, right now. “

Perfecting love  

At the funeral of Woodbury’s Matriarch, Inez Oehlke, (who graced the cover of the Woodbury Magazine, a few years ago), the presiding pastor described Inez as a high-achieving woman who worked her entire life on ‘perfecting her love’.

Some of the most loving & grateful people have lived lives of loss and suffering.  They have chosen to maintain a grateful outlook on life amidst the rancor of life. They have best utilized the great prompter to thoughtfully plunge into life.  Inez would never bemoan the death of civility; she would probably indicate that our grandparents’ generation had problems too.  All the same, she might say something about – our expectations of our children to ‘achieve’ versus ‘contribute’.  Inez might lovingly say something about how we expect our children to be super athletes & get top grades, rather than letting them have unsupervised fishing time at Power’s Lake.  She might want us to learn the pain of failing a little & put a little less focus on ‘self’ and social media.

A life well lived

“Come in, child!” she would holler from her room. There in her room nothing else mattered –  you were focused on one another’s face, fun discussions and feelings.  We often want to pass on recognizing our vulnerabilities, goals & shortcoming, but our Woodbury matriarch’s tone & actions mirrored love & how to be grateful in spite of circumstances.  Stripped were thoughts of seeking earthly fulfillment, networking & self-importance.  With Inez there was an answer, rather than the answer all ready for a bumper sticker slogan… in this imperfect world, we cannot force easy answers but when I was with Inez, a life well lived would give sufficient results. 

I miss going into the monastery of Inez Oehlke where Love can tap into a well of deep & wonderful feelings.

Margaret Wachholz is the campus marketing director at Woodbury Senior Living.

Photography courtesy of the Woodbury Magazine. 

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