Eric was twenty-five years old when he died. He was climbing in the mountains. He slipped and fell.
Nicholas Wolterstorff, Eric’s father, gives voice to his grief. It is raw. Heartbreaking. Honest.
The news came at 3:30 on a Sunday afternoon. Nicholas Wolterstorff writes, “For three seconds I felt the peace of resignation: arms extended, limp son in hand, peacefully offering him to someone—Someone. Then the pain—cold burning pain.”
“He was a gift to us for twenty-five years. When the gift was finally snatched away, I realized how great it was. Then I could not tell him…. I didn’t know how much I loved him until he was gone. Is love like that?”
“When we gather now there’s always someone missing, his absence as present as our presence, his silence as loud as our speech. Still five children, but one always gone. When we’re all together, we’re not all together.”
“The world is emptier. My son is gone. Only a hole remains, a void, a gap, never to be filled.”
“The worst days now are holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, birthdays, weddings, January 31—days meant as festivals of happiness and joy now are days of tears.”
“God is not only the God of the sufferers but the God who suffers. The pain and fallenness of humanity have entered into his heart. Through the prism of my tears I have seen a suffering God.’
“And great mystery: to redeem our brokenness and lovelessness the God who suffers with us did not strike some mighty blow of power but sent his beloved son to suffer like us, through his suffering to redeem us from suffering and evil. Instead of explaining our suffering God shares it.”
When I read this book, I weep. And then I love my children better because I have considered the world without them. The petty things fade away, and I rejoice in the gift of life, treasuring the moments God has given.
Wolterstorff’s poetical words are a pathway. It’s a journey that I have not yet been asked to walk—the one through the valley—but I know that many of you have. It’s a journey through the shadows. It’s a journey of our hearts.
For those of you on this journey, I pray that Wolterstorff’s words help you find your voice so that you may grieve deeply and honestly while holding to an abiding hope. One day, shadows will flee, tears will be wiped away, and death will be no more. Then, we’ll be home.