TO MARGARET DENEKE: On the death of her husband, Paul Benecke, Lewis’s old history tutor and a Fellow at Magdalen College.
3 October 1944
It will give me great pleasure to come to lunch at one o’clock on Oct. 30th. I will not try to express my sympathy to Miss Benecke when we meet—such things are often merely embarrassing. You, I am sure, will not doubt that she has it.
The gap in College is terrible. Already (and yet it is only a few days) I have twice found myself setting aside a problem ‘to ask Benecke about it’ and then realised with a pang that there is no more of that. His image haunts every room in Magdalen. I hear his imagined voice again and again: so vividly, when crossing Magdalen bridge this morning, that I almost wondered if there were not some objective reality in the experience. I can hardly explain how his funeral affected me. I have heard that service read in that chapel so often for those who have not believed a word of it and who (had they been alive) would have mocked, that my feeling was almost one of relief. Here at last was a dead man not unworthy of the service. In some queer way it enormously strengthened my faith, and before we filed out of chapel I really felt (do not misunderstand me) a kind of joy—a feeling that all was well, just as well as it could be.
I count it among my great good fortunes to have known him. As far as human eyes can judge he was—is—a saint: but oh!, we still needed him here so very badly.
The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume II: Family Letters 1905-1931. Copyright © 2004 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.