Having lost my own father through death ten years ago, I found very touching the following letter from C. S. Lewis written just after his father's death. The letter is written to the nurse who cared for Lewis's dying mother twenty-one years before. This wonderful lady apparently wrote a note of sympathy to C. S. Lewis upon the death of his father. . . .
Sept. 29th 1929
My dear Nurse Davison,
Excuse me. I cannot address you by any other name. Remember you? I should think I do. Do you remember the night Warnie and I came home very late and got into trouble and were sent to bed without supper, and you brought us in bread and jam in our little room -- opposite my father's bedroom? Do you remember the night you went to the Mikado with Warnie and I wasn't allowed to go? Do you remember the first night before my poor mother's operation when you both sat and talked about operations and I said 'Well you are gloomy people.' And now it has all happened again with my father. I thought of you a lot during his illness and wished you could have been with him. He constantly mentioned you and your photo has been on the mantlepiece at Little Lea for a great many years.
Thank you for your sympathy. I thought I had perhaps got a bit used to people I cared for dying while I was at the front, but it doesn't seem to make much difference. He was such a very strong personality and had been the background of my life for so long that I can hardly believe its all over. One keeps on thinking 'I must tell him that' when some little episode happens, and then [one] remembers. I suppose we get used to these changes in time. Thanks awfully for writing. It is really comforting to be taken back to those old days. The time during which you were with my mother -- and I remember that much better than my own little operation -- seemed very long to a child and you became part of home. We must try to meet when I'm in Ireland again. Probably we have often passed each other in the street without knowing.
Yours very sincerely
(Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III, pp. 1513-1514)
There are three aspects of grief here I really identify with:
- One thinks one has gotten over past griefs, gotten used to death, when suddenly a new loss makes all the old losses real, fresh and poignant again.
- When one loses a person quite close it is all so unbelievable; that person was part of the tapestry of life itself, and now the tapestry begins to un-weave.
- One does think: "I wish I could talk to so-and-so about such-and-such." Then, "Oh, they're gone!" I can never share a story, seek their advice, hear their laugh again in this world.
This letter from C. S. Lewis is so interesting because it was written two years before he became a Christian. He was so good at articulating his grief--but it was to be some time before he discovered the peace of Christ.
This gives each of us hope in our own winding journeys of grief. You never know what hope may lie just around the corner. So hang in there, God has something wonderful in store for your future.
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11
Prayer: Thank you Father, that in Christ there is a good future and a hope for me and for every person who would put their trust in you. Thank you that even in the valley of the shadow of death you carry us gently to that good future by the grace of your Spirit. Help me to hold on to you in the darkness of the valley, knowing that you will one day carry me to the mountain top again, where the sun will shine bright and warm, and I can feel the joy of your salvation once more. Amen.