A Letter of Consolation [NOOK Book]

Overview

Finding faith in a time of sorrow

Beloved author Henri Nouwen reflects on the spiritual significance of death and life in this moving meditation dedicated to "all those who suffer the pain that death can bring and who search for new life."

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A Letter of Consolation

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Overview

Finding faith in a time of sorrow

Beloved author Henri Nouwen reflects on the spiritual significance of death and life in this moving meditation dedicated to "all those who suffer the pain that death can bring and who search for new life."

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Sister - Helen Prejean
"On the long road it’s good to have Nouwen and his diving rod. Deftly he bends toward the drop of spiritual wisdom caked in the most ordinary things."
Sister Helen Prejean
“On the long road it’s good to have Nouwen and his diving rod. Deftly he bends toward the drop of spiritual wisdom caked in the most ordinary things.”
Christian Century
“An essay in the form of a long letter to [Nouwen’s] father after the death of his mother. One might well pass it on to anyone who is going through a period of grief after loss.”
Lutheran Libraries
“Recognized for the depth and warmth of his spiritual communication, Father Nouwen grapples with death, a particular death--his mother’s...An intelligent, loving letter to a Christian facing a powerful enemy, death.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061860683
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/17/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 903,003
  • File size: 278 KB

Meet the Author

Henri J. M. Nouwen (1932-1996) is the author of Reaching Out, The Wounded Healer, Making All Things New, The Return of the Prodigal Son, and many other bestsellers. He taught at the universities of Harvard, Yale, and Notre Dame before becoming the senior pastor of L'Arche Daybreak in Toronto, Canada, a community where men and women with intellectual disabilities and their assistants create a home for one another.

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Read an Excerpt

A Letter of ConsolationChapter One

Dear Father

Next Monday it will be half a year since mother died. It will be Holy Week and both of us will be preparing ourselves to celebrate Easter. How will this Easter be for us? You will be in the parish church of our little Dutch town listening to the story of Christ's resurrection. I will read. that same story to monks and guests in a Trappist monastery in upstate New York. Both of us will look at the Easter candle, symbol of the risen Christ, and think not only of him but also of her. Our minds and hearts will be flooded with ideas and feelings that are too deep, too complex, and too intimate to express. But I am sure that we both shall think about last year's Easter, when she was still with us. We both shall remember how she loved this great feast and how she decorated the house with flowers and the dinner table with purple and yellow ribbons. Somehow it seems long, long ago. Isn't that your experience also?

The last six months could as well have been six years. Her death changed our experience of time; the short period between last October and this April seemed a very strange time in which the days, weeks; and months were as long as they are for a small child who is taking his first steps. We had to relearn life. Every "normal" experience became for us like a new experience. It hid the quality of a "first time." How often have we used these words! The first Christmas without mother, the first New Year without mother, the first wedding anniversary without mother. And now it will be the first Easter without mother. I know that you have been asking yourself often, as I have, "How will it be without her?" Wecan hardly remember any of these events without her being part of them. We can no longer predict how we will feel on these familiar days and occasions. They are, in fact, no longer familiar. They have become unknown to us. We have become suddenly aware how intimately our ideas, feelings, and perceptions were determined by her presence.

Easter was not only an important day to celebrate, but a day to celebrate with her, a day on which her voice was heard, her letters anticipated, her active presence felt—so much so that we could not distinguish between the joys brought to us by the feast and the joys brought to us by her presence at the feast. They had become one and the same. But now we are forced to make a distinction, and now we have become like children who have to learn to do things for the first time on their own.

New experiences such as these have made the last six months a strange time for us. Her death became an ongoing death for us. Every time we lived through another event without her, we felt her absence in a new way. We became aware of deep connections with her that we had forgotten for a while but that were brought back to consciousness by the forward movement of history. And each time, she died again in us. Memories of what she would have done, said, or written on certain occasions made us more aware of her not being with us and deepened our grief.

Real grief is not healed by time. It is false to think that the passing of time will slowly make us forget her and take away our pain. I really want to console you in this letter, but not by suggesting that time will take away your pain, and that in one, two, three, or more years you will not miss her so much anymore. I would not only be telling a lie, I would be diminishing the importance of mother's life, underestimating the depth of your grief, and mistakenly relativizing the power of the love that has bound mother and you together for forty-seven years. If time does anything, it deepens our grief. The longer we live, the more fully we become aware of who she was for us, and the more intimately we experience what her love meant for us. Real, deep love is, as you know, very unobtrusive, seemingly easy and obvious, and so present that we take it for granted. Therefore, it is often only in retrospect—or better, in memory—that we fully realize its power and depth. Yes, indeed, love often makes itself visible in pain. The pain we are now experiencing shows us how deep, full, intimate, and all-pervasive her love was.

Is this a consolation? Does this bring comfort? It appears that I am doing the opposite of bringing consolation. Maybe so. Maybe these words will only increase your tears and deepen your grief. But for me, your son, who grieves with you, there is no other way. I want to comfort and console you, but not in a way that covers up real pain and avoids all wounds. I am writing you this letter in the firm conviction that reality can be faced and entered with an open mind and an open heart, and in the sincere belief that consolation and comfort are to be found where our wounds hurt most.

When I write to you, therefore, that, in our remembering, not only the full depth of mother's love but also the full pain of her leaving us will become known to us, I do so with the trying question in mind: "Why is it that she died before we did and why is it that we are the ones who have to carry the burden of grief?" You must have asked yourself this question many times. You have lived your life with the unquestioned assumption that you would die before mother. You felt this way not simply because you were three years older than she or, because herhealth always seemed better than yours, but because you sensed that she would be more capable of living on without you, than you without her. Why then are you the one who has to relearn life without her, and why are you the one who came to know her not only in the joy of her presence but in the pain of her absence? She has been spared the sorrow of your death; she never had to experience life without you. All the sorrow has been given to you to bear; and you have been entrusted with that awesome task of discovering her love not only in life but in death. Why? Although I am twenty-nine years younger than you are, and although the "logic of life" says parents die before their children, for me the question is no different, because love does not know "clock time."

A Letter of Consolation. Copyright (c) by Henri J. M. Nouwen . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 4 of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2011

    Beautiful Book!

    A short, yet a beautiful read ... A heartfelt letter from a Son to a Father on the death of his Mother ... Highly recommended to anyone who has mourned in this life and seeks the consolation of hope.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2012

    Right from the heart.


    Right from the heart.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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