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The Book Shelf
A Grief Observed
 by C. S. Lewis

Paperback, 112 pages,
 February 2001, Harper San Francisco
IBSN:  0060652381     List Price:  $9.00

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C. S. Lewis was a writer on twentieth century Christian thought and practice.  His life was complete after he met and married Joy Davidson.  Joy died after a four-year struggle with cancer and the Cambridge scholar was cast into the abyss of grief, doubt, anger, confusion and anguish that takes over when a loved one dies.  After Joy’s death, this Christian apologist rages into the pages of his private journal.  He questions God, revealing doubts about long held beliefs and acknowledges human frailty in the face of his collapsed life.  In his doubt and darkness, Lewis connects to the grief that created this little book about life and death and God’s role in it all.

 Being only 74 pages in the hard cover edition, Lewis’ journal after Joy’s death is divided into four parts each with many short paragraphs.  These paragraphs enable the reader to take small bites into a profound book, which can be chewed and digested before going on.

First, Lewis recounts his daily numbness and disbelief that Joy is dead.  He relates grief’s symptoms:  restlessness, yawning, foggy mind, fluttering stomach, tears, self-pity, lack of energy, social awkwardness, isolation, and wondering where God is:  “But 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…”

 In the second section, Lewis remembers Joy and their lives together and derides the platitudes of others:  “She is with God”; “She is at rest.”  Again, it’s about God; this time with anger:  “The word good applied to Him, becomes meaningless:  like abracadabra.”

 The grieving husband tenderly examines his love for Joy and all she meant  “…my trusty comrade, friend, shipmate, fellow-soldier, my mistress…”  In the third part, Lewis continues to examine God and continues his grieving:  “Tonight all the hells of young grief have opened again; … One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs.  Round and round.”

 Lastly, Lewis looks back on the mapless path:  his anguish, grief, anger, confusion, questions of life and death and God.  Back at the door slammed in his face, there are still no answers.  He feels his question to God is unanswerable but, takes comfort in God’s answer:  “’Peace, child; you don’t understand.’” 

 In my opinion, this is not a book for the newly bereaved.  After five years of giving up on page 25, I finally finished the book and understand what makes it praiseworthy.
Written by:  Maureen Dobert
Board Liaison - CT-43
E-mail:  Kenmoe@aol.com
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