The loss of a whole world

In a collection of letters by Henri Nouwen, I came upon this one that he wrote following the death of his mother:

OCTOBER 25, 1978

Dear Jim,

A few days ago I returned from Holland, where I buried my mother. Only five weeks ago she was with me in New Haven. She returned four days afterwards with my Father after the internist had discovered a tumor which caused the jaundice. Two weeks later she was operated on, a week after that she died. I am still in a daze. Everything seems different to me and I am slowly rediscovering the world which she loved so much. She has been so much part of my life that I have to do some real relearning. I am spending a still week at a retreat center trying to let my mother’s death reform me and lead me to new fields. It is all very intimate and very deep, very sad and very joyful, very beautiful and very painful. I am trying to write a little bit about these last few weeks, but I am still too close to all that has happened to do it well and with the necessary peace of mind. But I keep trying. It seems at this moment my way of letting her spirit come to me. I am still somewhere between Easter and Pentecost not knowing what really has happened. Keep me in your prayers and pray for her. Nobody has ever been as close to me as she was and never did I lose anyone whom I loved so deeply. Somewhere life needs to be rediscovered. But I am sure that her death will mean many new births for me.

Best wishes,
Love,
Henri

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From Disbelief to Advocacy: A son responds to his father’s ALS diagnosis

Brett Wilson was just 22 years old in the summer of 2019 when his father Rick was diagnosed with ALS.

ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and is a fatal nervous system disease.

In Canada, Rick was unable to secure a definitive diagnosis and so he travelled to the U.S.

“The verdict that he ‘might have ALS’ was not good enough for us,” Brett explained. “We needed clarity about what is essentially a death sentence of a disease since ALS involves a usual prognosis of a 2-5 year lifespan after the onset of symptoms.”

While awaiting confirmation of the disease, Brett refused to believe that his father had the terminal illness.

“I refused to believe it or talk about it,” he told me. “I kind of shunned my extended family who wanted to talk about it and, of course, for a while, it’s all they would talk about.”

Once Rick received the formal diagnosis, Brett remembers that his own life became “a cloud of stress.”

His grades took a hit in his fourth year of university and he marvels at how something about which he had previously known next to nothing became a consuming and omnipresent reality.

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