“Once very near the end I said, 'If you can -- if it is allowed –
come to me when I too am on my death bed.”
“Allowed!' she said. “Heaven would have a job to hold me;
and as for Hell, I'd break it into bits.”
Oh God, God, why did you take such trouble to force
this creature out of its shell if it is now doomed to crawl back
-- to be sucked back -- into it?
~ C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed ~
The division should be acute, the before her, the with her, the after her,
Yet there is this constant rattling of doors, though they remain locked,
in theory. I think of her as gone until I turn a page and read a passage
of pompous dialogue and she returns, My Joie de Vivre, entertaining me
with that puckish wit, unabashed. She smiles in the dusk with crusading
colours that bend dark horizons, changing clouds unexpectedly. What was I
before Joy*? Content, pleasant and productive. But was I alive, aware of
Life, its blissful rhythms? Irony defined: the heart which awakened stone
no longer beats. Finally, I understand. Lessons are sharp things which
infect both fresh and aging amputations. What do I do with this knowledge?
It is like learning a language that is no longer spoken, a long monologue
unbearably forlorn, painful. Faith dismisses hauntings, yet she does so
in daily degrees, oh, the sweet ghosts that peer from those notes, my name
underscored in margins. Why is there only one glove in the sewing box?
Agony hunts me in the garden. Perfume almost, but not quite a match.
Some rooms have snares. I dare not open a kitchen drawer. Pain waits there.
The specter of my former self, a staunch gent, so sure of Heaven's role,
that cold bloke follows me in the shadows, land of man’s rage and despair.
There is no pretty death, no words can comfort the ravaged left behind,
There is no poetry in our departing; I only pray there is Godspeed in mine.
*Written Nov 4, 2012
Joy Gresham Davidman, American poet, and C.S. Lewis, English writer and Oxford scholar, were good friends and married solely for the purpose to keep Joy in England (contested). But love came, as it has a habit of doing, when least expected, after Joy was diagnosed with terminal cancer. There love was true and deep, and her death shattered Lewis. His book, A Grief Observed explores his anguish and a Christian’s questions which arise during times of suffering. The film, Shawdowlands, is based on the biography, Through the Shadowlands: The Love Story of C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman. Lewis died 3 years after Joy. The above poem is a conjecture on my part, as no one can truly know what lies in another's heart, alive or otherwise.