C.S. Lewis is perhaps best known for children's stories that also delight adults; however, during his lifetime he was best known as an inspirational speaker, not quite in the same line as modern televangelists, but nonetheless a crowd-pleaser who had subtle but strong theology to share.
C.S. Lewis was a confirmed bachelor (not that he was a 'confirmed bachelor', mind you, just that he had become set enough in his ways over time that he no longer held out the prospect of marriage or relationships). Then, into his comfortable existence, a special woman, Joy Davidson, arrived. They fell in love quickly, and had a brief marriage of only a few years, when Joy died of cancer.
This left Lewis inconsolable.
For his mother had also died of cancer, when he was very young.
Cancer, cancer, cancer!
Lewis goes through a dramatic period of grief, from which he never truly recovers (according to the essayist Chad Walsh, who writes a postscript to Lewis' book). He died a few years later, the same day as the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
However, Lewis takes the wonderful and dramatic step of writing down his grief to share with others. The fits and starts, the anger, the reconciliation, the pain--all is laid bare for the reader to experience. So high a cost for insight is what true spirituality requires. An awful, awe-ful cost and experience.
'Did you know, dear, how much you took away with you when you left? You have stripped me even of my past...'
All that was good paled in comparison to the loss. How can anything be good again? This is such an honest human feeling, that even the past is no longer what is was in relation to the new reality of being alone again.
In the end, Lewis reaches a bit of a reconciliation with his feelings, and with God.
'How wicked it would be, if we could, to call the dead back. She said not to me, but to the chaplain, "I am at peace with God." '
Lewis had a comfortable, routine life that was jolted by love, and then devasted by loss. Through all of this, he took pains to recount what he was going through, that it might not be lost, that it might benefit others, that there might be some small part of his love for Joy that would last forever.
I hope it shall.
le 10 janvier 2014
Grief is one of the most salient and pervasive of human experiences. It is particularly painful when it’s a consequence of death of someone really close to us. Grief – deep, gripping, debilitating – is at the very core of what makes us human. It is also profoundly human to try to get a handle on grief, to try to understand it, and even to wrestle some important meaning out of it.
In “A Grief Observed” we have one of the most moving and eloquent attempts to give a voice to one particular experience of grief. C. S. Lewis is perhaps the twentieth century’s most famous Christian apologist and writer, at least in the English speaking countries. His works have inspired and educated generations of readers on the profound truths of Christianity and their application to the modern world. “A Grief Observed” is a different kind of work from most of his other apologetic books. It is a much more personal and even uncensored look at some of his own intimate and immediate feelings as he was grieving the passing of his wife. The book started as a series of notes written to himself as a very self-conscious attempt to deal with the overwhelming emotions that he was experiencing. This accounts for much of its rawness. The rawness, however, is never tawdry, in a sharp contrast with much of today’s “tell all” genera. The book projects refreshing frankness and intimacy, yet it is still a very thoughtful and intellectually stimulating account. Lewis would have none of cheap sentimentalization of death and afterlife that often passes for Christian worldview, but is in fact very remote from it. Popular kitschy piety is not his cup of tea.
Even though Lewis with this short book wanted to give voice to his own personal experiences of one particular grief, and is forthright about this, the book nonetheless manages to bear lessons for all of us. This is probably why it has endured for so long and why it will continue to draw audience until “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”