C.S. Lewis on Courage

Brehms Het Leven der Dieren Zoogdieren Orde 4 Leeuw (Felis leo capensis)
By A. E. Brehm [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I may be the only one who puts resolutions into place during the last few weeks of the old year, but I've committed to spending more time in my so-called "real life" and less time online. I've been reshuffling activity between my online identities, including one under my real name that's professional and focused, and this blog has suffered the past few weeks. I'm working on one very large project for widowed folks though, so have no fear: I'm still here. There's just more going on behind the scenes than any of us are used to. But here's one thought from the last few weeks that I thought I'd share.

My daughter and I have been reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and C.S. Lewis is truly one of the great writers -- not just for A Grief Observed, to which nearly all widowed folks are referred -- a previous generation's Year of Magical Thinking, but one that endures. 

Lion is a vivid, brief, rich story, deeply moral, a highly original (even now!) illustration of the battle between good and evil, the one I *so* do not want to believe in. But this is the page that speaks to me as I am now, brimming over with the telling of Gavin's last months: 
Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick. But that made no difference to what he had to do. He rushed straight up to the monster and aimed a slash of his sword at its side.
Because widowed people -- universally -- complain about being called "brave." We have no choice about it, but are pushed by circumstances, sadly beyond control, to do what others see, perhaps, as exceptional. We'd so much rather not be brave that to be called brave is heard as an insult.

And caregiving a loved one -- for me, living with a husband who was literally dying before me, in front of my eyes, and twisting and turning together with the changes that were sent our way -- is an act of sickening duty. Yes, I'd take each step forward, quickly and from love, but as I realized what was required, any time there was a pause, I'd freeze and half-step backward. There wasn't any way to breathe as I lunged ahead. No way to say "yes" to the job, to being his companion, to finally, letting him leave me behind (or was it the other way around?).

No one volunteers for this. Those that do -- who work in hospice, who make a life from caring for humans in this stage of transition -- must not feel ill at it.

But the rest of us find our compassion choked, a bit, by the forward motion and how little resistance we're able to put to it. And we run through, because the only way out is through, perhaps sometimes we're ill as we go (does everyone puke while they're having a baby? I did -- it's not unusual -- why isn't it part of our image of this dramatic change of life?) but we can't stop for long, and most of us get through, and then, finally we can breathe once more. 

And then you get to grief. And grief, at least, is a part of life. But more on that anon.


gayle said...

Good post. This courage or "bravery" literally felt like it was taking years off my life. I seriously felt mortally wounded from nursing my loved one to his death, and I still do.
Did u know C.S. Lewis was married to someone around 20 years his junior? ;)

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Gayle <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

If it didn't take years off my life, it certainly added years to my therapy. Perhaps... 20 years?

More XOX to you


annie said...

Resistance? It's futile, ya know. I never bothered. I saw. I planned. I did. What else is there?

But I chafe at the whole "courage" thing. Brave? Me? Nah. Practical. Okay. Determined? Very.

I don't like this particular fantasy series, but Lewis is a clever, insightful guy.

Star said...

One of my favorite authors! My favorite book is Mere Christianity. I've read it several times and I adore it more every time. Especially when he explains his theory of love.

Carmie of the Single Nester said...

I have a book by CS Lewis that I need to get to. After reading your post, it is now a must. Having lost my brother last spring, grief is still prevelant in my day.

Kathy said...

I bristle at being told how strong I have been through my husband's accident, hospitalization, and death. Truth is I was scared the whole time and continue to be at what the future now holds for myself and our children. My therapist tells me it is meant to be a compliment but I am almost always taken aback by it even though I have heard it 100s of times in the 7weeks since he fell. I guess I feel like it means I am not a sobbing mess all the time(I am sobbing mess plenty of the time) and so I must not be a "good widow". I keep saying now when I hear it..."it is meant ot be a compliment...it is meant to be a compliment" Because, like you said, I just moved through the space and time doing all that could to try and will him back to us and when I realized none of my talking, playing of music and the voices of our kids, praying, bargaining with God, or crying were going to bring him back...I had to cope with the loss we were going to experience. It was just all i knew how to do. It was just all I could do for him. I often feel like a failure even though I know that the dr's knew long before I believed it that he was never coming back.,,it never lessens the pain...I couldn't summon any power to save him so I hardly feel strong. He and I and our families were helpless victims to a tragic accident. I hardly feel strong. I plan to just go foward to raise his kids and honor his life.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Kathy, I'm so sorry for your loss. We really all do hate it. Welcome to the sisterhood.
Keep moving forward, take the love these people offer if you can stay open (it's hard -- many of us close up b/c the comments are so "off"), and we will be here to share with you on your long road.
Doing what you "have to" may not be much of a choice, but it is the right thing to do.

Anonymous said...

I never realized until I read this posting of why I hate it so much when people tell me that I am strong. You were able to put this feeling into words that I understand with this post. I don't like to be called strong because I'd really rather not be strong. I don't want to live this life as a strong widow. I just want to life live as I was. Thank you for your words.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

I'm glad this post helped you put words to this! It's pretty universal with us, I think, as with folks who are caregivers to a child or family member.
HUGS to you.

Sarah Treanor said...

Thank you for this. I just found your blog when googling CS Lewis - and am glad to have found it. I lost my fiancé 8 months ago in a helicopter crash, he was a pilot, living his dreams. Thank you for your words today, its been a hard day for some reason and this helped me.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Sarah, so sorry for your loss. Join us on Widowed Village... we have many like you and connecting helps so much!


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