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Jean Vanier is the founder of L'Arche, an international organization which creates communities for people with developmental disabilities. Mr. Vanier is photographed here during a lunch in one of the community houses. (Michel Setboun/Michel Setboun/Getty Images)
Jean Vanier is the founder of L'Arche, an international organization which creates communities for people with developmental disabilities. Mr. Vanier is photographed here during a lunch in one of the community houses. (Michel Setboun/Michel Setboun/Getty Images)

'There is a beginning and an end to all things' Add to ...

What is left, and what will be left when I leave this human existence? I have received and I have given. I have moulded and been moulded. We are all little links in a huge chain of evolution. Where has it come from and where is it going to?

At the basis is trust. I never asked to be born into the Vanier family. I did not ask to be a boy and not a girl. I did not choose my genes. Where and when during my life did I make free choices? I do not know. I feel I have been carried along - held and upheld by a gentle wind. Is it the wind of the Holy Spirit? Let it be, let it be.

I found your letter deeply human: You are no longer dreaming of being cheered as you stride majestically down Fifth Avenue, New York, for writing the best book of the century. You are there, holding Walker, a loving, caring father.

This is life. We are not pure or impure spirits, floating on clouds of acclaim. We are flesh, grounded and rooted in the earth. We need sleep and rest, work, good food with friends and lots of pleasure. We need disappointments, because they foster hope and renewal. Of course we muse over death.

It is not an accident that we die. We enter the world in the fragility of a baby and later decline into the fragility of the old person we will become. Fragility means needing to cry out, "I need your help, I need your love, I need you." Fragility forms bonds of togetherness, community, friendship and peace.

My life has been born and reborn in trust each day. I trust I will also go through the veil to meet Barbara, God, and so many others. This trust has been the centre and the cornerstone of my life. I have faith that the only important thing in life is to receive and accept life and then to foster life in others. Although I must admit there also have been times when I have been unfaithful, for which I ask forgiveness.

For me, no regrets, for all that is and has been. Today I want just to live in the present and the presence, to God and to other people. May I let regrets fly away, and let the present moment unfold in hope. Your letter, Ian, is about gently receiving and giving life - your holding Walker as he lives through a seizure. Even as our correspondence, as it is, stops, we can continue to help each other to become more human.

May these days of Christmas and the New Year be gently quiet for you - a time of peace, a time of renewal, of rest, but maybe also a bit of skiing.

Jean Vanier

Ian Brown lives in Toronto and is the author of The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Search for His Disabled Son (Random House). Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche, lives in Trosly-Breuil, France.

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