Saturday, December 6, 2014

Better things ahead

Republished: C.S. Lewis's Letters to an American Lady. Lewis never met the American lady in question but the correspondence continued for thirteen years. This collection of his letters to her was published in 1967, four years after Lewis's death. (The cover on the right is from that original edition in my library.) From this review of the book:
Throughout the letters we see examples of Lewis’s warm piety. His Christian faith was no academic affair, and it deeply shaped the way he lived and viewed the world. He concludes most of his letters to the lady with a variant of the line “Let us continue to pray for each other,” and we get the sense that he really meant it.

His warm piety is also evident in the way that he approached death. He faced a number of physical difficulties throughout his life, but he could sense his time was drawing to a close in the last couple of years. This sense of the end was not a source of pain or anxiety for him, however, and he exhorted the lady not to fear in the face of death as well:
Pain is terrible, but surely you need not have fear as well? Can you not see death as the friend and deliverer? It means stripping off that body which is tormenting you: like taking off a hairshirt or getting out of a dungeon. What is there to be afraid of? You have long attempted (and none of us does more) a Christian life. Your sins are confessed and absolved. Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave it with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.
Lewis’s piety, however firm and warm, did not inoculate him against the pains of this life, and he clearly felt them acutely. Indeed, he experienced one of the worst possible torments: the death of a spouse. .... [more]