Love and the Pain of Leaving

It is no secret to those of you who read this blog that one of my favourite writers is Henri Nouwen. In fact, there is a great webpage for those who like to read his work and want to be inspired by it. You can visit HenriNouwen.org and you will find out more about this great priest and prophet who was a great witness to the world. I get a daily email from HenriNouwen.org. A different quote each day brings me food for thought. Yesterday I received a email with these words of the great Henri Nouwen;

“Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country or dies … the pain of the leaving can tear us apart.

Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.”

I found it to be a timely reflection for two reasons.

Firstly because I know that saying good bye, farewell, or so long are usually nice words to help us cope with the pain that accompanies separation. I have shared with many people that my Nan Whyatt used to say “Pleasure the meeting and parting is the pain.” She was right. We would make what seemed in those days to be the long journey to Pilley’s Island in scenic Green Bay Newfoundland. Being with her an Pop for a couple of weeks before driving back to Trinity Bay was a golden part of our youth. Nan and Pop loved to see us coming and hated to see us go. The time in between that meeting and parting was so important in shaping us. Today the journeys that we make to be with family are so much longer. I think those words about being torn apart are an accurate reflection of what I was feeling again last week. Having said all that, I know that Nouwen is right. While I have often suffered the pain of leaving, that is a small cost for the joy that is offered me in the relationships I have in my life which I count as a gift from my Creator.

The second reason that I was moved by these words yesterday is because of sad news that Catherinanne and I received yesterday. Three months ago Catherinanne’s cousin Dan Beyer died. He was a relatively young man who had lived a long life. Dan was ‘not supposed’ to live late into life. At least that is what he was told as a youth. But Dan defied the odds and he married Chris and raised a family. I found Dan a wonderful person and very pleasant company and I was moved at his funeral to hear those who loved him best speak of his life, his loves and his joys. Equally moving for me was hearing that family share ‘the pain of leaving.’ Yesterday we learned that Dan and Chris’s youngest son Kyle died tragically in an ATV accident.  My heart goes out to Chris whose heart has to be so heavy. Within three months she has be forced to watch her husband and he youngest son leave knowing there will be no more opportunities to live in the joy of being together. So when I read the words, “And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair,” I think of Chris. I pray that Chris and her family will focus on the life and joy that they have enjoyed in Kyle and the new life that is promised to him in his baptism. No words will remove the pain of this terrible loss. Yet we as a people hold firm to the God’s promise to be faithful to us, even in death. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.” May God be with all those today who are saying goodbye. Loving is sweet…but leaving is never easy.