Saturday, November 1, 2014

We'll meet again

In "Saying Goodbye for Good" Wesley Hill writes:
In his book A Severe Mercy, a memoir of Christian conversion and student life in Oxford, Sheldon Vanauken tells the story of his last meeting with C.S. Lewis, who had become a friend. The two men ate lunch together, and when they had finished, Lewis said, “At all events, we’ll certainly meet again, here—or there.” Then he added: “I shan’t say goodbye. We’ll meet again.” And with that, they shook hands and parted ways. From across the street, above the din of traffic, Lewis shouted, “Besides, Christians never say goodbye!”
Hill recounts this story to make a different argument. Saying "goodbye" is important because doing so acknowledges the reality and pain of physical separation. Vanauken's book is largely about his separation, because of her death, from his wife. And of course Lewis wrote A Grief Observed after the death of Joy Davidman. They both felt the pain of physical separation in this life. Feeling the grief of separation is important but so is remembering what Lewis is saying here.

A Severe Mercy is still in print and it is very good. My copy dates from the year of its publication and I haven't read it in many years. I should read it again.

This is the somewhat longer account that appears in the book. So, on All Saints' Day, it may be particularly appropriate to remember that we will meet again.
On that last day I met C.S. Lewis at the Eastgate for lunch. We talked, I recall, about death or, rather, awakening after death. Whatever it would be like, we thought, our response to it would be 'Why, of course! Of course it's like this. How else could it have possibly been.' We both chuckled at that. I said it would be a sort of coming home, and he agreed. Lewis said that he hoped Davy and I would be coming back to England soon, for we mustn't get out of touch. 'At all events,' he said with a cheerful grin, 'we'll certainly meet again, here—or there.' Then it was time to go, and we drained our mugs. When we emerged on to the busy High with the traffic streaming past, we shook hands, and he said: 'I shan't say goodbye. We'll meet again.' Then he plunged into the traffic. I stood there watching him. When he reached the pavement on the other side, he turned round as though he knew somehow that I would still be standing there in front of the Eastgate. Then he raised his voice in a great roar that easily overcame the noise of the cars and buses. Heads turned and at least one car swerved. 'Besides,' he bellowed with a great grin, 'Christians NEVER say goodbye!'
A Severe Mercy at Amazon