Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, theologian and author who actively opposed the Nazi regime.
He was imprisoned for a year and a half and executed just two weeks before American soldiers liberated the prison where he had been held.
Bonhoeffer was no stranger to loss.
Here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote while in prison (emphasis added):
“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so.
One must simply hold out and endure it.
At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it.
It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship.
Furthermore, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation.
But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy.
One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain. “
[Bonhoeffer wrote this from his prison cell to Renate and Eberhard Bethge on Christmas Eve, 1943, fifteen months before his own death by execution. ]