Observing Grief: 4
In the last chapter of A Grief Observed, Lewis admits that grief is, “like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.” If you’ve grieved over someone’s death, you know the image Lewis is casting. Happiness almost feels a little haunted, but time evaporates the wetness from some of the tears, albeit gradual, “like the warming of a room or the coming of daylight,” says Lewis.
Healing does come, though it is snared by the inadequacies of our five senses and the trappings of them. Lewis knows that Joy is more than his memory, more than the photograph that links his mind to a part of her. He knows too that Jesus is more than the wafer at Sunday’s service and more than he can fathom.
It might seem odd that Lewis entangles Joy’s passing with his interpretation of things like the Incarnation when God broke down all the ideas of how Messiah might come, but he lands at a simple statement: “All reality is iconoclastic.”
“The earthly beloved,” he says, “even in this life, incessantly triumphs over your mere idea of her. … And this, not any image or memory, is what we are to love still, after she is dead.” In other words, it’s not any idea of Joy but Joy. And, as he says, it’s not his idea of God, but God himself.
He questions whether he is using God to get to Joy in the life to come and knows that God is the end and not a means. But, he knows God is there even in the silence. The locked door that accompanied the rawness of Joy’s death has turned, not opened, but not bolted shut either. Rather, Lewis feels God is silent because he is patient when our anxieties sting us.
The end is akin to the beginning of A Grief Observed, if only in the questions it doesn’t answer and the doubts that are still raised as a result of the horrible occurrences of this world. In the end, Lewis knows that God is more mystery than reason, and his reliance on Him, and the hope in the resurrection of the dead, is wrapped in a faith in a God who can be found.
“Poi si torno all’ eternal fontana,” ends the book. It is from Dante. Beatrice turns to the eternal fountain and keeps walking. Lewis doesn’t dismiss his grief, but he is more at peace with God at the end of his notes, and, like Joy’s last words to the chaplain, Lewis is at peace with God.