A letter of Consolation
Henri Nouwen harper & Row 1982
It seems indeed important that we face death before we are in any real danger of dying and reflect on our mortality before all our conscious and unconscious energy is directed to the struggle to survive. It is important to be prepared for death, very important; but if we start thinking about it only when we are terminally ill, our reflections will not give us the support we need ... Once you have reached the top of the mountain, it does not make much difference at which point on the way down you take a picture of the valley - as long as you are not in the valley itself.
Befriending death seems to be the basis of all other forms of befriending. 1 have a deep sense, hard to articulate, that if we could really befriend death, we would be free people. So many of our doubts and hesitations, ambivalences and insecurities, are bound up with our deep-seated fear of death, that our lives would be significantly different if we could relate to death as a familiar guest instead of a threatening stranger…. Fear of death often drives us into death, but by befriending death we can face our mortality and choose life freely.
Love comes from that place within us where death cannot enter.
But how do we befriend death? ... 1 think love - deep, human love - does not know death... Real love says, “Forever Love will always reach out toward the eternal. Love comes from that place within us where death cannot enter. Love does not accept the limits of hours, days, weeks, months, years, or centuries. Love is not willing to be imprisoned by time.
The same love that reveals the absurdity of death also allows us to befriend death. The same love that forms the basis of our hope; the same love that makes us cry out in pain also must enable us to develop a liberating intimacy with our own most basic brokenness. Without faith, this must sound like a contradiction. But our faith in Jesus, whose love overcame death and who rose from the grave on the third day, converts this contradiction into a paradox, the most healing paradox of our existence.