Ch.228 I Can See Pat Better Now
C.S. Lewis, in A Grief Observed, writes something that caught me completely by surprise: “…passionate grief does not link us with the dead but cuts us off from them… It is just in those moments of least sorrow…that H. rushes upon my mind in her full reality, her otherness.”
Similarly, he states that “And suddenly, at the very moment when, so far, I mourned H. least, I remembered her best.”
Here’s what Lewis means. When he, engulfed in the agony of earliest grief, thought of H. he couldn’t see her as she was, as a real person. Instead, he idealized her, made her into a God, convinced himself that he could never get over her loss, desperately wanted her to return to him so she could comfort him and heal his wounds. Lewis needed her for his sake, not hers.
Later, though, as he recovered his balance, Lewis believed he could see H. as a real individual, not as his missing guardian angel but as his actual long-time lover, as someone put on earth with her own reasons to exist. H. lived not as a figment of Lewis’ imagination, then, but as a separate and distinct person. And now H. had departed. Never to return.
I cannot entirely agree with Lewis that I see Pat better now than when my grief was most intense. Rather, I think I perceive her differently after 17 months of widowhood than before. Early on she was lightning and thunder; now she is a quiet rain and sometimes a sudden shower. Before I could see her all too clearly as I continually replayed watching her take her last breath; now she is fading in my memory -- I need to look at her picture to fully remember her features. But I do agree with Lewis about one thing; now I can sense Pat more as a separate being, more of an “I” and less of an “us,” as I am learning to see myself.
Pat lived and I am grateful to have met her, fallen in love with her, married her, and raised three children with her. In many ways I became one with her. And now I am grateful that I can say goodbye to this marvelous person, not needing her to return to diminish my loss.