(From my CaringBridge site in honor and memory of our grandson Sully. Written on the day after Good Friday, 2010.)
A Grief Observed is C. S. Lewis’s journal of his grief when his wife Joy died after a painful battle with cancer. His stepson, Douglas Gresham, wrote the forward to my copy of this little book. “All human relationships end in pain–it is the price that our imperfection has allowed Satan to exact from us for the privilege of love,” Gresham writes. “The greater the love the greater the grief, and the stronger the faith the more savagely will Satan storm its fortress.” He gives Satan his due for the suffering in this world. Later in the forward Gresham wrote of his mother’s death and the love she and Lewis shared. “It almost seems cruel that her death was delayed long enough for him to grow to love her so completely that she filled his world as the greatest gift that God had ever given him, and then she died and left him alone in a place that her presence in his life had created for him.”
One of the observations of Lewis seems it should be so obvious. How often does our pain and the pain of our loved one become so blended together we fail to see what Lewis came to understand. “I had my miseries, not hers; she had hers, not mine.” Joy’s pain needed to be his focus while she lived. O, the day she died, then his pain became the focus and how it suddenly was so sharp. “The end of hers would be the coming-of-age of mine. We were setting out on different roads. This cold truth, this terrible traffic-regulation (‘You, Madam, to the right–you, Sir, to the left’) is just the beginning of the separation which is death itself.” Just the beginning…
It is Saturday, the Sabbath, the holy day for the ancient people of God, Israel. It is the day after the separation began. Jesus died yesterday. The body of Jesus was in the tomb. The end of Jesus’ suffering was the coming-of-age of the suffering, of the grief of the family, disciples, and friends of Jesus. Their hearts were overwhelmed with the grief, the loss, of a son, of their Lord and hope, lying cold in the grave. It all seemed so hopeless. Visiting the grave. That is not the way it was supposed to be. The day after the funeral, after all the focus and energy on the events leading up to the death and the death itself, after all the people are gone.
The day after the funeral, at the grave, it is so numbing, so frightening. The days, the months, the years, life without him, without her, all the vision and dreams vanished. Visiting the grave, tears watering the grass, this is not the way it was supposed to be. All hope is gone. The many trips to the grave do not become any easier. It is Saturday, the Sabbath, the day after his death. This day the pain is more severe. It must be a dream. This can’t be real. The experience of C. S. Lewis is our experience. The separation began with his/her death and our suffering came-of-age. How often in these days after do we hit bottom. It can’t hurt any deeper. Then “the bottom gives way and (we) fall into a darkness no words can explain.” How can it get any worse? What will tomorrow bring? The days after, these days of separation… Tomorrow is Sunday, another day to visit the grave.
Sources of Quotes:
C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1961, Foreword, 1994. Quotes from pages 10, 11, 15, 30.
Quote in last paragraph from Steven Curtis Chapman, Jesus Will Meet You There on CD, Beauty Will Rise.