In LAMENT FOR A SON we meet a preeminent philosopher not as a thinker, but as a father. I first met Nicholas Wolterstorff four decades ago as an undergraduate in the classroom, then then saw him again in a small seminar of graduate students. I did not know until I read this fine book that his son, Eric, died in a mountain climbing accident at the age of twenty-five. This reflection on the loss of a son invites slow, careful reading. Getting to the end of this slight book is not the aim. Real benefits come with hearing and absorbing how the author faces his loss. I've reread it several times.
Graciously, he overlooks those who “blurt out strange, inept things.” He knows it takes a skill and a wisdom, not given to all, to say helpful things to grieving parents, so he doesn't make a point of chiding those who speak carelessly. Candidly, he insists that his loss is “awful, demonic" and "appallingly grim.” Wisely, he tries to do justice to grief and loss, while not abandoning the hope and promise delivered by Jesus who himself suffered and died, before rising. Distinctively, doing justice to both despair and hope means for the author, the grieving father, letting his grief play out in the searing depth of the loss and not seeking an easy or premature resolution. In fact, resolution is not something the book offers. It poses agonizing questions worthy of reflection on the reader's part. It a wise book offered by a very wise man, raw and real, hopeful without being glib.