Posted February 15, 2004
Book: In Memoriam
Author: Henri J. M. Nouwen
Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, IN, pp.62
An Excerpt from the Jacket:
Henri Nouwen hesitated for a long time to publish the story of his mother’s death. He overcame his hesitation only when he discovered that many people outside the small circle of family members and friends, for whom he had originally written In Memoriam, expressed deep gratitude for the opportunity to read it. The fact that even those who had not known his mother had found much comfort in his description of the way he experienced her death made him realize that “in life she belonged to a few, in death she is for all.”
An Excerpt from the Book:
If mother’s agony and death were indeed an agony and death with Christ, should I not then hope that she would also participate in the sending of the Spirit? The deeper I entered into my own grief, the more I became aware that something new was about to be born, something that I had not known before. I began to wonder if Jesus does not send his Spirit every time someone with whom we are connected by bonds of love leaves us.
To forget mother would be like forbidding her to send the Spirit to me, refusing to let her lift me up to a new level of insight and understanding of my life. I started to feel the power of Jesus’ words: “It is for your own good that I am going because unless I go, the Advocate (the Spirit) will not come to you; but if I do go, I will send him to you . . .When the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth” (John 16:7, 13).
Is it for my own good that Jesus died, that my friends and relatives died, that my mother died? Am I able to affirm with my entire being that in and through Christ death has become the way by which the Spirit of truth comes to us? Must I grieve and mourn so that I will be ready to receive the Spirit when he comes?
These questions became very real to me in those confusing weeks after mother’s death. I said to myself, “This is a time of waiting for the Spirit of truth to come, and woe unto me if, by forgetting her, I prevent her from doing God’s work in me.” I sensed that something much more than a filial act of remembering was at stake, much more than an honoring of my dead mother, much more than a holding on to her beautiful example. Very specifically, what was at stake was the life of the Spirit in me. To remember her does not mean telling her story over and over again to my friends, nor does it mean pictures on the wall or a stone on her grave; it does not even mean constantly thinking about her. No. It means making her a participant in God’s ongoing work of redemption by allowing her to dispel in me a little more of my darkness and lead me a little closer to the light. In these weeks of mourning she died in me more and more every day, making it impossible for me to cling to her as my mother. Yet by letting her go I did not lose her. Rather, I found that she is closer to me than ever. In and through the Spirit of Christ, she indeed is becoming a part of my being.