C.S. Lewis grief

20-20

6:00:00 AMEvelyn Hildebrand


Hindsight hurts.  

I have a really good memory for details.  But only some details.  I remember a moment of my second birthday - my Dad was holding me and I was wearing my favorite pink smocked dress with the little red hearts - his towheaded princess.  I remember sitting as a seven year old in my favorite white chair in the living room, trying hard to remember being a baby.  I remember stealing five marbles from a store and then dragging my feet back into the store to return my trophies, terrified that I was going to go to jail.  That woman was going to call the police - I was sure.  And that would be the end of me.

Hindsight is not 20-20. Hindsight is made in our own image. To someone suffering, hindsight is a scathingly specific and supremely effective torture: personal, fitted to the soul's smallest crevices and cracks, clawing away with minute accuracy at the tender, raw spots.

I read some C. S. Lewis last week. Lewis lost his wife after only three years of marriage. He married her as she lay on a hospital bed, dying of cancer. After her death, Lewis poured his poor soul out onto paper, writing A Grief Observed to find an outlet for his suffering.

After losing his wife, hindsight became almost all that Lewis had left of his wife. His memories of her face, her voice, her smile, her laugh, her hands, her fingernails, her eyes. Memory just wasn't enough - would never, ever be enough.

To a certain extent, man makes his own memories. Lewis felt that to remember his own version of his wife would be worse than not remembering her at all. Terrified at the prospect of a second loss that would be worse than the first, Lewis wrote:

"But won't the composition inevitably become more and more of my own? The reality is no longer there to check me, to pull me up short, as the real H. so often did, so unexpectedly, by being so thoroughly herself and not me. The most precious gift that marriage gave me was this constant impact of something very close and intimate, yet at the same time unmistakably other, resistant - in a word, real." (1)

Hindsight hurts because all the most precious memories, the dear ones, the treasured ones, end up looking more and more like myself.


My past, people I used to know, conversations I had, tones of voice, smiles, seconds, sound bytes: they’re all gone.  Memory is not a soundtrack, not a photograph, not a strip of undeveloped film that captured the moment.  Memory is more of a painting, communicating what the artist saw, not what actually was.  


It hurts - it aches - it burns.  The fact that I can't remember what actually happened - only my version.  Only my version all tainted and biased and spiked with my own sadness.  Looking out at the bleak world and watching the weeping sky, every memory starts to rain.
Go ahead.  Ignore the ranting of a battered little heart.  What do I know, anyways?   What did C. S. Lewis, grief crazed and probably crazy, know for that matter?  What does anybody know? About suffering?  About anything?

Nothing. And Everything.

We do see the world through a lens. Right now, my window is streaked with salt water. And - surprise, surprise - the world I see is wet and weepy.

At least someone knows what I'm talking about:

"For then, though I've forgotten the reason, there is spread over everything a vague sense of wrongness, of something amiss. Like in those dreams where nothing terrible occurs - nothing that would sound even remarkable if you told it at breakfast-time - but the atmosphere, the taste, of the whole thing is deadly. So with this. I see the rowan berries reddening and don't know for a moment why they, of all things, should be depressing. I hear a clock strike and some quality it always had before has gone out of the sound. What's wrong with the world to make it so flat, shabby, worn-out looking? Then I remember." (2)

Sometimes, I want the world to by my mirror.  I'm miserable.  So everybody else damn well better be miserable too.  I'd better not see smiles.  I'd better not see a single streak of sun.  Only tears and rain and fire and brimstone.   

Here's a tough pill to swallow - enormous, sharp, chalk-dry and nasty tasting: 

The world does not revolve around me.  

People are real.  People and their personalities don’t revolve around me.  They don't fit into my mood.  Hindsight do it’s worst, in the morning, the real person is alive, kicking and contrary.  The world is real.  Trees.  Grass. Buildings.  Walls.  Rocks.  Weather.  Rage and rant, weep and whine, but the world exists without me.  Independent from me.  On it’s own.  


That's a tough pill to swallow - it’s about time I swallow it.  

(1) Dietrich Von Hildebrand, A Grief Observed.
(2) Hildebrand, A Grief Observed.
Image 1 - http://41.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lyxlvdoMM51qafxp5o1_1280.jpg#_=_
Image 2 - http://fc00.deviantart.net/fs10/i/2006/084/5/c/suffering_girl_by_eidemon.jpg
Image 3 - https://c1.staticflickr.com/5/4136/4883667086_6e226edb7a_z.jpg
Image 4 - http://devilsfoe.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Scary-Mirror.jpg

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1 comments

  1. it's is not its... and something is off with the footnotes that I won't say ... But grammar aside, what you say about memory is beautiful even if it is a bit terrifying to think that certain forms of memory reflect too much of a subjective vision, somehow as if memory inevitably passed onto imagination
    ... and yet, you are only looking at memory from the perspective of loss and nostalgia. There are other situations where memory forces itself on us with an implacable precision that bespeaks of an all-too-objective reality, such as when we run away from our past, or else when our past is too much to handle. In these situations memory strikes us because it gives reality in an overdetermined manner, somewhat like a photograph, but more like a genuine masterpiece. At other times the work of memory can be more hopeful without having to become impersonal. Think of what happens when, upon relishing in familiar memories remembrance brings something unexpected to the fore, something that, in addition, shines in a new light perhaps because only now, after it has been long past, I can at last make sense of it. In this case memory reconnects me with a reality that is independent from me, but which nonetheless addresses me, saying, like in Alice in Wonderlands: "remember me."

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