I know you are aware that we both have a friend who is going to die. Whose death seems to be close after a long painful battle with an illness that has been relentless in its progression.
I also know that you, like me, are sad, have already shed some tears and come the day when he passes from this world, will shed many more. Our hearts will ache and life will, for a while, be a burden as is so often the case for those who live on.
Having watched this unfold over a period of time I have witnessed the quality of life diminish as would be expected, but recently something else has happened.
Back in the 1960’s the nations of the western world lived under a continuing fear that they would destroy each other in a nuclear holocaust. During that time someone commented that despite the ever present nuclear threat, the world would in fact die with a whimper, not a bang.
The world isReflections of My Life by Marmalade.
A bad place
A bad place,
A terrible place to live
Oh, but I don’t wanna die
The thought being that life would reach a final point where all energy, all purpose and meaning had gone, that it had run its course and was now finally, pitifully surrendering to death, its end a husk of what it had been or had the potential to be.
It was this sort of diminishing that I had seen in our friend. A relentless battle against an insidious foe which grew in strength as its victim faded. Not just his body but the person within who we have loved, once a bright light in our midst, now a sputtering candle whose light is all but gone. Darkness was drawing in almost as surely and as inextricably as night overtakes days.
But then in the darkness something happened. Have you ever heard the term “dark night of the soul”? It is supposedly something that people occasionally experience when they find themselves in a place of no hope and cut off from any form of solace. God, the Great Spirit, has allegedly turned away which is said to be the most desperate of experiences. But in finally coming through the prolonged darkness there is light and understanding on the other side.
Maybe this is what we have witnessed because the sputtering candle began to burn more constantly. Dimly, but constantly. A calmness and assuredness came to rest on him. Had the circumstances changed? No. However they were no longer overwhelming. In fact the constant glow of the light lent strength to friends and loved ones who were already grieving over the inevitable end that drew closer each day.
The question that hung in the air was, why had the change come about and where did the new assuredness come from?
I return to my great teacher for the possible answer as I now understand it. At the end of the Narnia Chronicles, indeed the very last page, the children who had appeared throughout the various books, have had the great adventure, shared the company of Aslam who is Lewis’ God figure, have tragically died in a train crash. Lewis dealt with the tragic loss in the following way:
And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they lived happily ever after. But for them (little children) it was only the beginning of the real story. All their lives in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the last one.The Final Battle by C.S.Lewis.
For me, people who have the assuredness and peace when faced with the finality of life have glimpsed something of this. An inkling that the last however many years are not what our being is actually about. That this time was a precursor to the life we were actually brought into being for.
Some would question the supposed tragedy of a life finished too soon but if Lewis is right who would deny another’s entry into the Great Adventure?
We will moan and grieve because a part of our lives has been torn away. There will be a void filled unsatisfyingly by memories, how ever good they may be. The feelings and emotions we would have shared in the furtherance of relationship are now left to decay. We must learn to live afresh because a chapter of our own story has now closed. Be brave and write a fresh. Be honest in your pain. Choose a brave new chapter after loss. But most of all, wonder at the thing that filled the closing days with peace and assuredness.
Yours, with head bowed,