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By Henri J. M. Nouwen

Discovering religion in a Time of Sorrow loved writer Henri Nouwen displays at the non secular importance of dying and existence during this relocating meditation devoted to "all those that undergo the soreness that loss of life can carry and who look for new life."

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They seem to say to their husband, wife, or friend, “How could you do this to me? Why did you leave me behind in this way? ” Sometimes people even feel angry toward those who die, and express this by a paralyzing grief, by a regression to a state of total dependence, by all sorts of ill- 56 nesses and complaints, and even by dying themselves. If, however, mother’s life was indeed a life lived for us, we must be willing to accept her death as a death for us, a death that is not meant to paralyze us, make us totally dependent, or provide an excuse for all sorts of complaints, but a death that should make us stronger, freer, and more mature.

We, who loved mother so much and would have done anything possible to alleviate her pain and agony, could do absolutely nothing. All of us who stood around her bed during her last days felt powerless. Sometimes we looked at the doctors and nurses with the vain hope that maybe they could change the course of events, but we realized that what we were witnessing was the inevitable reality of death, a reality we shall all have to face one day soon. I think it is important for us to allow this experience of powerlessness in the face of mother’s death to enter deeply into our souls, because it holds the key to a deeper understanding of the meaning of death.

You are familiar with that word. Priests use it a lot during Lent. ” It sounds unpleasant and harsh and moralistic. But mortification—literally, “making death”—is what life is all about, a slow discovery of the mortality of all that is created so that we can appreciate its beauty without clinging to it as if it were a lasting possession. Our lives can indeed be seen as a process of becoming familiar with death, as a school in the art of dying. I do not mean this in a morbid way. On the contrary, when we see life constantly relativized by death, we can enjoy it for what it is: a free gift.

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