“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear,” is C.S. Lewis’ opening line in A Grief Observed which we will be reading over the next four weeks in the Liturgy of Life Reading group. This is a simple book, it is nothing more than a printing of Lewis’ journal as he mourned the loss of his wife.
Reading his thought I feel a bit embarrassed as I realize that most of what I have called grief was in fact actually fear.
To be honest my personal losses thus far have been few. And though my heart aches with friends and family who grieve their loved ones, when I pause to think about it, as I sit with them, I mostly feel afraid. Watching them struggle through grief my thoughts quickly turn to myself, “I hope I will not share their fate, I wonder if I would be able to survive this type of sorrow?”
I remember watching from a distance as a family from our church dealt with the illness and eventual death of their young child. The experience felt so entirely wrong, my gut twisted with outrage, a death like this should not come to a child so innocent, to a family so dedicated. Watching them I realized that nothing had ever spoken to me more profoundly about the reality of God in the world than watching them live through a grief that I’m certain I could not withstand, and still come through it with their faith intact. It is the closest thing I know to watching the impossible unfold in reality before my eyes.
In this first chapter Lewis describes his grief as,
feeling mildly drunk,
a sudden jab of red-hot memory,
a bath of self-pity,
a door slammed in your face,
the locked door,
the iron curtain,
monotonous tread-mill march of the mind,
being an embarrassment,
like an empty house,
ups and downs,
Alone into the Alone.
It is no wonder that grief and fear feel so much the same. Grief stalks us. We live our lives on the edge of a cliff waiting for our turn, knowing that the plunge into grief will someday be required of us.
And yet while we cry out for relief from all that is wrong in the world, we synchronously proclaim a quiet hope, that if such wrong exists that there must also be a Right.
Christianity is not reconciliation with death. It is the revelation of death, and it reveals death because it is the revelation of Life. Christ is this Life. And only if Christ is Life is death what Christianity proclaims it to be, namely, the enemy to be destroyed, and not a “mystery” to be explained. Religion and secularism, by explaining death, give it a “status,” a rationale, make it “normal.” Only Christianity proclaims it to be abnormal and, therefore, truly horrible.
(Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World)
This post is part of a series from the Liturgy of Life Reading Group. We are currently reading A Grief Observed. We would love to hear from you. If you blog feel free to link up with us every Wednesday and share your thoughts on our latest book.