TO MARY WILLIS SHELBURNE: On whether we dare hope that dying is like having a tooth extracted; on purgatory; and yet more on forgiveness and the feeling of being forgiven.
7 July 1959
. . . You seem to have had a very nasty experience. I can see why you describe it as ‘looking into the face of death’: but who knows whether that face, when we really look at it, will be at all like that? Let us hope better things. I had a tooth out the other day, and came away wondering whether we dare hope that the moment of death may be very like that delicious moment when one realises that the tooth is really out and a voice says ‘Rinse your mouth out with this.’ ‘This’ of course will be Purgatory. . . .
You surely don’t mean ‘feeling that we are not worthy to be forgiven’? For of course we aren’t. Forgiveness by its nature is for the unworthy. You mean ‘Feeling that we are not forgiven.’ I have known that. I ‘believed’ theoretically in the divine forgiveness for years before it really came home to me. It is a wonderful moment when it does.
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.