Am currently reading A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. It’s a short book, but quite heavy; it’s a reflection of sorts on his wife’s death. When I first picked it up, I expected to be finished in ten minutes or so, judging from the thinness of the novel. But from the first lines of the first chaper–
No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.
–I couldn’t, couldn’t run through it the way I do with most things I read. Somehow that first line arrested me, and it seemed a travesty to swallow his emotions the way I do water: easy in and easy out.
I stared at the first page for a long time. Closed it and came back. The rest of the chapter was just as poignant. I felt as though I was intruding on something very private; that light was shining on something meant to be kept in the dark recesses of one’s heart. It struck me at that moment, how like a voyeur a reader is. Always looking in, and the characters never see out.
He’s a good writer, but I’ve read other good writers, and none have had quite the same effect on me. The feeling of stopping time, or the feeling of shame as though I had been caught spying, or simply the weight of grief on my own shoulders. It caught me off guard especially since I’ve read some the Narnia series and was unimpressed.
I attribute it to the way his feelings are able to be communicated, his honesty about them, but mostly his own filter as a writer to make sense of these emotions. Knowing that there would be an audience, penning these words to touch some sort of chord in his readers. At the same time, there’s a defiance; he’s writing this for himself, as some kind of catharis, but futile, because he knows it can never be reached.
I feel as though I’m in an awkward place. All at once, I want to gather him in my arms to convey some sort of comfort, but even in his tone, he has distanced himself so that I cannot even begin to reach out. Instead, I can only stand a little ways off and just look and absorb and let go.