Sep 19th to Sep 25th: Epilogue, Preparing for Death

Reading: Epilogue, Preparing for Death, p. 83 to 93

I am like them: weak, broken, and totally dependent. It is the place of
true poverty where God calls me blessed and says to me, “Don’t be
afraid. You are my beloved child, on whom my favor rests.” (p.87)

In our reading this week, Henri reflects on his glimpse “beyond the mirror” a few months after his recovery and then again two years later following another life-threatening illness. In the Epilogue Henri writes: “. . .now that I am again fully immersed in the complexities of daily living, I have to ask myself, ‘Can I hold on to what I learned?'” (p. 83) Henri laments “the demands of our hectic society” (p. 83) where “Competition, ambition, rivalry, and an intense desire for power and prestige seem to fill the air.” (p. 84). By the time of his accident he had found his home among the community of handicapped people and their assistants at L’Arche Daybreak. It was by sharing his life and love in community that Henri understood, “(I)n the midst of this power-hungry milieu, our community holds so much weakness and vulnerability that God continues to remind us of the love that was shown to me in the portal of death.” God’s love that was shown to Henri is given to each one of us. Henri’s core insight is that the reality of God’s love is best expressed in these five words, “You are my beloved child.”

Writing in April 1992 after another serious illness, Henri states what might be his personal creed: “I believe that my life, whether is it long or short, is a gift from God. I believe that God, who has given me life, loves me with an everlasting love. I believe that this everlasting love is stronger than death, and I believe that everything that happens during my life offers me an opportunity to let my death become a rebirth.” (p. 93)

In this final week of our September book discussion, you are invited to reflect on the entire book. Here are a few questions you might consider to help you get started, but we are most interested in whatever touched your heart..

  1. In the Foreword, Robert Durback writes: “We gaze into mirrors to see what we look like, to discover who we are.” (p. 9) How have Henri’s reflection on death and life altered the way you gaze into the mirrors in your life. What new insights have you gained?
  2. Near the end of his recovery Henri writes, “Having come to realize that my death could have been a gift to others, I now know, too, that my life still to be lived is just as much a gift. . .” (p. 79) Reflecting on Henri’s experience, can you understand how your death could be a gift to others? Are there steps you can take to live your life as a gift and to prepare for your death as a gift?
  3. In the Epilogue Henri writes, “Since you are healed and have taken on your many tasks again, much of your old restlessness and anxiety has reappeared.” (p. 83) Have you had a similar experience in your life (e.g., returning from a retreat, a peaceful vacation)? How did you counter the return of the restlessness and anxiety?
  4. What are your thoughts and reaction to Henri’s personal creed (p. 93, last paragraph). What relation might it have to your life?

If you haven’t already done so, you are encouraged to sign up for the free webinar Remembering Henri: The Gifts of a Fruitful Life that will take place this Tuesday, September 21st—the 25th anniversary of Henri’s death. Click here for more information and to register.

As we conclude this special September book discussion, I want to thank each of you that has journeyed with us. We are grateful for your presence and participation. Looking ahead, the book selection for our Advent discussion that begins on November 24th is the newly released book Community by Henri Nouwen, edited by Stephen Lazarus. We hope you will join us.

May the Lord give you peace.