Henri Nouwen: Share unexpected gifts with others

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Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12:24

“When Jesus said that if a grain of wheat dies it will yield a rich harvest, he not only spoke about his own death but indicated the new meaning he would give to our death. So we have to ask ourselves, “Where do we see the harvest of mother’s death?” There is no doubt in my mind that this harvest is becoming visible first of all in those who loved her most. Our deep love for her allows us to be the first to reap the harvest and to share with others the gifts of her death.

Isn’t it here that we have to start if we want to discover the meaning of mother’s death? Before anything else, we have to come into touch with—yes, even claim—the mysterious reality of new life in ourselves. Others might see it, feel it, and enjoy it before we do. That is why I am writing to you about it. We may help each other to see this new life. That would be true consolation.

It would make us experience in the center of our beings that the pain mother’s death caused us has led us to a new way of being, in which the distance between mother, father, or child slowly dissolves. Thus our separation from mother brings us to a new inner unity and invites us to make that new unity a source of joy and hope for each other and for others as well.”

Henri Nouwen in A Letter of Consolation (New York: HarperOne, 2009) 26-27. Let me know if you want this PDF. It’s powerful.

I titled today’s post “share unexpected gifts with others” because Nouwen brought to my attention the gifts of death, which at least to me, were quite unexpected.

If we move toward the pain of loss we discover new life and true consolation. My proclivity is to stuff my feelings, to deny or ignore pain, or to avoid it. In so doing, I miss the gifts.

But now as I think about this process that Henri suggests it helps me see the purpose, the blessing, the gifts of a person’s life to me for myself and for others.

Also, I can see how this would bring us as people, closer together, and cause the blessings of the deceased to spread. This is generosity at a deep and unexpected level.