On November 22nd, the anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ death, I am revisiting the book he wrote after the death of his wife titled, A Grief Observed.
The section that interests me most this evening is about loving God and persons rather than merely our ideas or images of them. Here is the relevant excerpt:
Brett Wilson was just 22 years old in the summer of 2019 when his father Rick was diagnosed with ALS.
ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and is a fatal nervous system disease.
In Canada, Rick was unable to secure a definitive diagnosis and so he travelled to the U.S.
“The verdict that he ‘might have ALS’ was not good enough for us,” Brett explained. “We needed clarity about what is essentially a death sentence of a disease since ALS involves a usual prognosis of a 2-5 year lifespan after the onset of symptoms.”
While awaiting confirmation of the disease, Brett refused to believe that his father had the terminal illness.
“I refused to believe it or talk about it,” he told me. “I kind of shunned my extended family who wanted to talk about it and, of course, for a while, it’s all they would talk about.”
Once Rick received the formal diagnosis, Brett remembers that his own life became “a cloud of stress.”
His grades took a hit in his fourth year of university and he marvels at how something about which he had previously known next to nothing became a consuming and omnipresent reality.
Never underestimate how much it can delight an author to hear from an appreciative reader.
On this date five years ago, I had the opportunity to meet the author of a book I really enjoyed.
It was the day after I had attended the 2016 Templeton Prize Ceremony honouring Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks when I set off to Oxford to meet the author of a biography of another Templeton Prize winner, Cecily Saunders.
Saunders’ biographer Shirley du Boulay was in her early 80s. She had received my handwritten letter of approximately eight pages praising her for her beautiful biography of the founder of the modern hospice and palliative care movement in the U.K. and eventually sent me an email in reply.
Naturally, I was thrilled when she invited me to her Oxford home for tea should I ever be passing through.
I took a cab from the Oxford bus station to her address and arrived just before 1 o’clock.
I rang the bell and, a moment later, she answered.
As I followed her inside, she hurriedly began to prepare a light lunch even though I’d insisted on only coming for tea.
The table was set in a lovely manner and there was a bottle of rosé, meats, potato salad, green salad, bread, and butter.
In the chapter on Hope in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis discusses the paradox that “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”
I certainly observed this during my studies and travels throughout Europe during which I was continually struck that the most beautiful art and architecture was made by people who believed in the immortality of the soul whereas materialists always seemed to produce the most ugly and bland structures and stuff.
There is something about looking forward longingly to the world to come that makes us more effective in this world than we could possibly be otherwise.
In 1993, John Paul II inaugurated the World Day of the Sick to be celebrated each year on February 11th. He wanted the annual day to serve as “a special occasion for growth, with an attitude of listening, reflection, and effective commitment in the face of the great mystery of pain and illness” and he specifically addressed all those who are sick, calling them “the main actors of this World Day.”
What did he mean by this?