Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Grief - Unobserved - A Counterpoint

(Note:  This month's selection is A Grief Observed.)

As you may have heard me say (or seen me write) before, C.S. Lewis is my favorite author.  His insights, phrasing, vocabulary, and simple sincerity speak to me in a way that no other writer quite does.

It is, therefore, with real enjoyment that I revisit a number of his works for this book club, despite the fact that this month's selection is a tough one for obvious reasons.  Grief is a difficult subject under the best of circumstances, and these are not the best of circumstances in our family just now. 

Lewis so accurately points out that "Grief still feels like fear.  ... Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen."

I have spent a good bit of time over the years hanging about in hospital corridors; and I am familiar with the sounds, the smells, the scenes one encounters in those hallways.  And yes, always and inevitably, there is a sense of hanging about waiting for something to happen.

Last spring, on Easter Sunday morning I received the phone call I had been expecting for some months.  My mother had had another stroke and was in the hospital.  For two weeks the doctors tried everything they knew to assist her.  I observed while Mom did all she could to cooperate with them, until she concluded there was nothing more to be done that would be effective.

Then she quietly asked us one morning, "Stop trying to fix me."  It was her way of saying, "Enough.  Stop the treatments because they are not helping and they are only prolonging the inevitable."

I was there each day, several hours at a time, watching her sleep, feeding her when she could eat a little, and talking with her when she rallied enough to be able to speak.

But I was not there at all times, 24 hours a day.  There is a grief that is unobserved - that each of us must process alone - as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  I did not observe as my mother decided to ask us to "stop trying to fix" her.  Only God was there as she arrived at that place of peaceful resolution.

Lewis asks in this book if we know, in fact, whether God is good.  He says we don't have much to "set against" the fear that if God can put us through such terrible sufferings, that he may not be a good God after all.

Ah, but then his honesty prevails and he says, almost as if embarrassed, as though he had temporarily overlooked this crucial fact, "We set Christ against it."

Yes, we do.  Yes, we must.  Yes, we can set Christ against our yawning fears, and feeble hopes and confused prayers.  He has triumphed over death and the grave! 

And the greatest grief in the universe was unobserved by humankind as the Father wept over the Son he had sacrificed so that we might have victory over death.

God is good.  And while our own griefs in this life may sometimes buckle our knees, and break our hearts, he truly knows what we suffer as he observes our grief and moves to heal us and make us whole - whether in this life or the next.

(D.J. Hughes at The Quiet Quill is hosting an online C.S. Lewis Book Club.  Please stop by and check out the blogs on this topic.  Feel free to join in.)


  1. "And the greatest grief in the universe was unobserved by humankind as the Father wept over the Son he had sacrificed so that we might have victory over death."

    A Grief Unobserved. That's the most insightful thing I've heard or read or seen in a very long time.

  2. I have no other words to add, between you and the above comments, and C.S. himself. The greatest grief, and the greatest victory was His, for us.

  3. You inspire me to begin reading C.S. Lewis after a post like this. When you have a close relationship with your mother, it's hard to say goodbye. I lost my mom almost six years ago and it seems like it happened recently. I miss her so. And yet, she too was ready.

    Blessings and love,

  4. Oh yes I remember that part in the book where he said "we set Christ against it" and I nearly whooped out loud! Difficult book to read at times, but taught me a lot.

    I am praying for your nephew with cancer right now. And for you, so far from home, trying to be there for him.