Mourning our losses

November 9, 2009

My husband’s grandfather passed away last week (thus the blog silence). We’re doing a lot of mourning this autumn — my grandmother just passed away in September.

My husband’s grandpa was a wonderful, dear man — lively, smart, adventurous and loving. We really miss him. He had suffered with Parkinson’s disease for the past several years, and his health was in decline. I suppose we should have expected that he would die soon, but we were really hopeful he would get better. We had tickets to go visit him (in California) in December. We are sad we will not get to see him again, this side of heaven.

I happened to be reading a book this fall that has turned out to be very helpful in all this sadness: Henri Nouwen’s “With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life.”  It is a delightful little book (very short, with lovely artwork). I highly recommend it.  It’s not specifically about death and mourning at all, and there are probably many other books (perhaps some by Nouwen, even) that deal with that topic better and more directly. But I’ve found it this book to be beautiful and quite helpful.

In the book, Nouwen writes about mourning our losses and giving them over to Jesus. That topic touched home with regards to infertility, of course, and with the loss of these two wonderful grandparents. Much of the book is a meditation on the gospel story of the risen Jesus and the disciples on the Road to Emmaus (where they don’t recognize him until he breaks bread with them — Luke 24: 13-35). I keep returning to one particular passage again and again … the “stranger” here is Jesus talking to the disciples:

“The stranger didn’t say that there was no reason for sadness, but that their sadness was part of a larger sadness in which joy was hidden. The stranger didn’t say that the death they were mourning wasn’t real, but that it was a death that inaugurated even more life — real life. The stranger didn’t say that they hadn’t lost a friend who had given them new courage and new hope, but that this loss would create the way to a relationship far beyond any friendship they had ever experienced. Never did the stranger deny what they told him. To the contrary, he affirmed it as part of a much larger event in which they were allowed to play a unique role.”

My sadness over these deaths is real. But I know it is part of a larger sadness in which joy is hidden. It is a loss to us, and we will continue to weep. But we also know these deaths inaugurated even more life, real life, for our departed grandparents. For that we rejoice — thank you, Jesus.



  1. Praying for the souls of your grandparents.

  2. Sorry about your losses. The reflection from the book is wonderful and exactly right. I’m praying for their souls.

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