If, as I can’t help suspecting, the dead also feel the pains of separation (and this may be one of their purgatorial sufferings), then for both lovers, and for all pairs of lovers without exception, bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love. It follows marriage as normally as marriage follows courtship or as autumn follows summer. It is not a truncation of the process but one of its phases; not the interruption of the dance but the next figure (C.S. Lewis A Grief Observed).
We gaze into the eyes of the one we love and repeat, “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death.”
It is there from the beginning, on our first day of marriage it has been made clear, death will one day divide us.
We know it is coming well in advance, yet death always strikes with a brutal and unexpected blow. No matter how long our time together it never feels like enough.
The world of nature handles it much more gracefully. There are no tears when a bird or beetle dies. Its body quickly returns to the earth where it eventually becomes a new bird and beetle, it all seems so logical, even peaceful.
Could we, as Lewis implies, follow this path through grief and come to see death as an ordinary progression, not a death so much as the next step in life? Certainly their are religions that encourage us to do this.
Yet nothing feels more unnatural than staring into the dark face of death. Our wounded hearts scream and thrash as we long for our loved one, our souls cry, “they were created to live not to die.”
And this is exactly the Christian message.
We live in a fallen world, a shattered glass.
We look at the shards and feel like they ought to make something more than a sharp pile on the floor but we have never seen the glass whole, we can only dream of what it should be. All we know is that something certainly has been broken.
A bit later Lewis goes on,
I wrote the other night that bereavement is not the truncation of married love but one of its regular phases-like the honeymoon. What we want is to live our marriage well and faithfully through that phase too. If it hurts (and it certainly will) we accept the pains as a necessary part of this phase. We don’t want to escape them at the price of desertion or divorce. Killing the dead a second time. We were one flesh. Now that it has been cut in two, we don’t want to pretend that it is whole and complete.
Christ came to show us the glass. He came to defeat the enemy. He came to bring abundant life out of our severed bodies and wailing hearts.
This is on of my all time favorites. Sam Baker’s Waves.
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.