TO MARY WILLIS SHELBURNE: On how often one’s inner state differs from external circumstances; and on the proper attitude toward death and dying.
7 June 1959
I am sorry to hear that so many troubles crowd upon you but glad to hear that, by God’s grace, you are so untroubled. So often, whether for good or ill, one’s inner state seems to have so little connection with the circumstances. I can now hardly bear to look back on the summer before last when Joy was apparently dying and I was often screaming with the pain of osteoporosis: yet at the time we were in reality far from unhappy. May the peace of God continue to infold you. . .
What a state we have got into when we can’t say ‘I’ll be happy when God calls me’ without being afraid one will be thought ‘morbid’. After all, St. Paul said just the same [Philippians 1:21]. If we really believe what we say we believe—if we really think that home is elsewhere and that this life is a ‘wandering to find home’, why should we not look forward to the arrival? There are, aren’t there, only three things we can do about death: to desire it, to fear it, or to ignore it. The third alternative, which is the one the modern world calls ‘healthy’ is surely the most uneasy and precarious of all.
The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis. Copyright © 2008 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.