He was crying one minute. And the next minute he was angry, harboring resentment against God. Then he was feeling guilt. Then he felt resigned, and fairly peaceful. Then he was laughing at some funny little memory. Then he was crying again.
My brother’s wife had died of a sudden heart attack as they sat together watching TV.
In those first weeks after her death, Jerry would sometimes call me late at night just to talk …and I saw A Grief Observed.
In his book C.S. Lewis writes, “In grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?How often – will it be for always? – How often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, ‘I never realized my loss till this moment’? The same leg is cut off time after time.”
A Grief Observed is the journal of C.S. Lewis’ honest feelings, and the jarring questions about his wife’s death, and the brief lapse of his own faith in God.
“Where is God? …Go to him when your need is desperate, when all other help is in vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face.”
Lewis admits that he never intended his journal to be published. But it occurred to him years later that his grief and observations, and finally his peace and understanding might be a help to others who had lost a loved one.
“That is exactly what I hoped for,” I told him. God knows what we need to hear.
We laughed about the times we have gone to church and heard a message that made us almost think the pastor had our house bugged and knew all our business, or someone had been telling tales about us.
Jerry told me that once he and Lisa had a fight. That night as they lay in bed Lisa apologized in her cute Filipino broken English, “Jerry, I don’t know why I do the things I do. I always want to do one thing, but then I do what I don’t want to do. I don’t understand.”
Jerry said he was almost laughing as he reached across the bed to his wife’s night table and picked up her Tagalog bible. He turned to Romans 7:18 where Paul wrote, “… for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”
And that’s how Jerry felt reading A Grief Observed.
He said he will finish it and maybe read it again and then send it back to me. Of course I told him I don’t want it back. I have a couple of copies. Make notes in the margin and underline things and cry all over it and then put it on your shelf. Someday you will want to give it to somebody else as you observe their grief.
It is good to know we’re not alone.