Monday, September 21, 2020

Confession of a Dying Man

This piece is later addition to the existing Ground Motive project From Henk's Archives. Here, Henk reflects on his experience of dying.

by Henk Hart

I am embarrassed, ashamed at times, and I feel quite powerless. Many people reach out to me in my end time. Family and friends. People from church or my work community. Children. Strangers sometimes. I am deeply touched by this and the touch is healing. At times I am able to show my appreciation, my gratitude. Yes, I am truly grateful. To all. But I do not always or to everyone make that visible. That’s because I have begun to struggle with mail: email, letters in the mail, cards. Part of my new reality is that responding to mail takes time and energy that I now no longer have. I try. But it doesn’t happen. So I feel ashamed. I know that most people understand. I am grateful for that. But I am still embarrassed. And sad.

For the longest time I have not experienced death and dying as a burden. They are part of living. For many people they are sad, painful, beyond bearing. For me they were not. Bit by bit I gave up parts of what it means to be alive. Food, a hobby, an activity, a bodily function. I have seen death coming and expected it for a long time. Even now that my medical team says it’s coming closer faster I feel that in many ways I am ready and it’s ok. But the last few weeks I have become aware of my unanswered mail as a part of dying for which I am not ready. And I think I know why. It breaks lines of communication, it ends part of what it means to be alive. And to be the offender is sad and shameful to me. Suddenly dying is no longer what it has been so far. 

So I confess: as I am dying, I am part of death’s ruptures in living. Not just for myself. I bring the pains of dying into the lives of others. And I confess: I do it especially to those who reach out to me. I am sorry. 

Though confessing helps living with the shame, it does not stop the dying. Life goes on, also the life of which dying is part. And that life, for me at least, is also full of blessing that surrounds the pain. Shame is not the whole story of my dying. In our electronic world I can share my story with my work community, my confessional community, and my community of family and friends. In that way my world of dying could be life giving to others. That gives me joy.


  1. Thanks for these words, Henk. They are beautiful in the way that an honest soul is beautiful.

  2. Clarence JoldersmaMonday, September 21, 2020

    Thank you, Henk. I will always remember fondly teaching a summer course together on science and religion: what a great transition from mentor to colleague!

  3. Clarence JoldersmaMonday, September 21, 2020

    I will always fondly remember teaching a summer course with you at ICS on religion and science; what a great way to transition from your being a mentor to being a colleague.

  4. My dear Henk. Accept our love without needing to respond or acknowledge. You have given, accepted, challenged and loved us in so many ways. This is just a token of reciprocation. Blessings to you. Harry kits

  5. Dear Henk - you do not need to answer. I pray with you. We have been friends for very long. Shared many ideas, struggled together and also against one another. You have had to let go of an infant, a wife and a daughter - God put you there for them and for us. While you are leaving us - go in peace brother.

  6. Dear Henk.
    Just read your "Confession of a Dying Man". I know you may not have the energy to read this, and you certainly should not try to respond.
    Thank you for you, and your vulnerability.
    Very touched by what you wrote.
    Have always very much appreciated your deep faith, vision, insights, humour and honesty.
    Today, also learned of your very generous donation to the ICS. THANK YOU!
    In so many ways the ICS is you, not only because you were there from the start but also and especially because of your exceptional scholarship, vision and leadership.
    Love from Ingersoll.
    John Joosse, Chair, ICS Board of Trustees.

  7. Beloved Henk.
    The beloved senior member.
    The one who is so much like St. John.
    Profound in wisdom.
    Unflinching in truth.
    Always, always, always all about love.

    Our debt … my debt … is quite literally eternal.
    You have shared so deeply with me.
    You have been a cherished friend.
    We have held each other in tears.
    We have prayed together.

    And now, my beloved teacher and friend,
    as you prepare for the resurrection,
    know that we stand with you in hope,
    and we long for the coming of shalom.

    Go in peace dear friend.
    God in peace.

  8. Dear Henk, when I read your words,I hear your voice, the cadence of your speech and you feel very close. Thank you for your honesty about dying. You always had the courage to be frank and outspoken. You don't go this last stretch alone. Gott befohlen.

  9. Beautiful. And inspiring. Wishing you peace and a smooth transition from this world to the next.
    Lynnette Postuma, ICS Board & First CRC TO

  10. Dear Henk, you were courageous in your passion for the truth and justice, in your faithfulness to the church, and in your devotion to teaching generations of students. Now you are courageous as death approaches. Your teaching stays with me in my preaching, in my teaching, and in my everyday activity as I seek to be a trustworthy servant of Jesus Christ. I am everlastingly grateful for your influence in my life. May God’s blessings rest upon you and give you peace.

  11. Dear Henk,
    I remember well my first year at ICS so long ago trudging slowly through Dooyeweerd’s New Critique, inspired only by the perceptive light you shone on that notoriously dense translation. In your many years at ICS, your courage, devotion, insight, and wisdom enriched many of us who had the privilege of linking with you in a myriad of ways. Thank you! Peace as you journey beyond the veil to creative fulness on the other side.
    John Valk

  12. So thankful to have shared in your life celebration that you also got to witness. I love this article and plan to share it with others. So much hope and peace to be passed on! :)

  13. Dear Henk,

    I can joyfully affirm the observations, sentiments, eloquence, and affection noted by those earlier in this string. So grateful that you have been a significant part of our lives and a signpost-forward in so many important ways. You preached at my wedding (almost 40 years ago), focusing on John 1; one of the attenders contacted me and expressed his surprise at hearing about the importance of the fear of the LORD, an idea with which he was not acquainted. Great stuff. Love you, Henk. - Bill Garfield.

  14. Just learned that the man who changed the course of my life forever, has exchanged this world for the next. I will be forever grateful. I have been a babysitter for Esther and Klaas, I have cherished the love and care of Anita. I will never forget.