Henri received a letter from Jurjen Beumer about the death of Jurjen’s father. His letter of consolation comes at a good time for me and my family as well. Part of what he wrote to Jurgen:
I am deeply convinced that the death of those whom we love always is a death for us, that is to say, a death that calls us to deepen our own basic commitments and to develop a new freedom to proclaim what we most believe in. Mourning is a process in which you are, so to say, freed from old bonds but in which new bonds, more spiritual bonds, are being made.Love, Henri. p. 144.
When we lose someone we love, we essentially experience death in a very personal way. Something in us dies as well. Nouwen suggests that out of that experience we become a bit bolder in our beliefs. Writing from a Christian perspective I think he is talking about faith. After the death of a loved one, we realize heaven has never been so important as it is now. One re-reads the words of Jesus and sees, as if for the first time, the eternal promises He makes that sparkle with hope. The idea of eternal life after this life takes on new significance. And the resurrection of Jesus from the dead empowers that faith.
Henri says that there are new and spiritual bonds being made. What he means is that in some spiritual sense the one we loved is still with us. We know they remain alive, even though we are no longer in their physical presence. That may seem a little ethereal to some, but not me. Many times in the past eleven years I have spoken to John Robert. I have full confidence that he hears or knows what I am saying to him.
I admit there is much we do not know about the afterlife. We know enough to have hope. When our loved ones die a part of us dies also. But another part of us can then be enlivened to anticipate a spiritual life both now and in eternity that previously had seemed a bit dimmer.