09 February 2007

Three Widows - A Grief Observed

This post may make some people that I love cry. I won't mean to - but I did want to write about the understanding that I am gleaning from a book I am reading. At the library the other day, Kendra happened to find A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis in a "used books for sale" box. Knowing he is one of my favorite authors, she said "Look mom!" and 15 cents later I was it's proud new owner. It is not a very long book - but it is definitely like observing someone from the inside out who has lost someone that they loved. The book is C.S. Lewis' journal written after the death of his wife Joy - a wife given to him after many years as a bachelor and seemingly snatched away by cancer. This book has personal meaning in my life, as my husband's mother and both of her sisters have all three been widowed in the last year and a half. What you witness in their lives externally, now takes on new definition to me as there is a whole internal aspect you come to understand you cannot be a spectator to. It makes me love them more. It makes me want to go visit each of them and sit and listen to them tell me stories of memories that mean so much to them, or maybe tell me nothing but just to be comforted by the presence of another person. The truth is when someone is grieving, the rest of us don't know what to do. We make a meal, send a card, mere trifles to a person who feels they are dying inside. This excerpt gave me pause and I felt it so deep, beyond the place that makes you cry:

I have no photograph of her that's any good. I cannot even see her face distinctly in my imagination. Yet the odd face of some stranger seen in a crowd this morning may come before me in vivid perfection the moment I close my eyes tonight. No doubt, the explanation is simple enough. We have seen the faces of those we know best so variously, from so many angles, in so many lights, with so many expressions - waking, sleeping, laughing, crying, eating, talking, thinking - that all the impressions crowd into our memory together and cancel out into a mere blur. But her voice is still vivid. The remembered voice - that can turn me at any moment to a whimpering child.

I cannot imagine what such a loss feels like. While I have lost grandparents that I loved, I loved them as a child. My heart was broken for their loss, truly, but not in the same way as that separation, the tearing away Mr. Lewis' describes of one with whom you have become "one flesh", and yet he distinguishes the limit to that - in that you cannot truly share someone else's weakness, fear or pain, no matter how badly you want to. There truly must be a sense, and it helps me to understand the anger that some have in grief, that your spouse has gone somewhere without you, that you cannot go. All religious platitudes fall short, and there are no words. God alone is the comforter, and it must seem to those grieving that He is even absent for a time. C.S. Lewis was a great theologian, and his struggles bring comfort to me as he brings his anger, doubts and fears to pen and paper. It is only when we ask questions, that God begins to answer.

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