The Dancing Puritan

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Death of C.S. Lewis: The Last Battle

Aslan turned to them and said: 'You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.'
 Lucy said, 'We're so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.'
No fear of that,' said Aslan. 'Have you not guessed?'
Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them.
'There was a real railway accident,' said Aslan softly. 'Your father and mother and all of you are--as you used to call it in the Shadowlands--dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning."  From The Last Battle. 
In July of 1963, C.S. Lewis suffered a severe heart attack. Death was so certain that last rites were administered. He later said: I can't help feeling it was rather a pity I did survive. I mean, having glided so painlessly up to the Gate it seems hard to have it shut in one's face and know that the whole process must some day be gone through again, and perhaps less pleasantly.

As Lewis recovered from his heart attack, perhaps he remembered the words that he had put in Lucy's mouth. Just as Lucy and friends had so often tasted the air of the Narnia within Narnia, so Lewis had been to the very Gate. He had been sent back from the Gate, but not for long. On November 22, 1963, C.S. Lewis had the Gate opened to him. He entered into the world that he had often thought so much about. As he drew nearer to that world everything became larger and larger. He had traveled through the Shadowlands. At his home, just outside of Oxford, he tumbled out of bed and hit the floor. He fought the final fight. At 5:30 PM, in the arms of his brother Warnie, he died. As Lewis wrote in The Last Battle "The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning."

In Till We Have Faces Lewis writes: “Death opens a door out of a little, dark room (that's all the life we have known before it) into a great, real place where the true sun shines and we shall meet.”

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote: "...We owed each a great debt to the other, and that tie, with the deep affection that it begot, remained. He was a great man of whom the cold-blooded official obituaries have only scraped the surface."

50 years after the death of C.S. Lewis, I think we have still "only scraped the surface." C.S. Lewis was a flawed man. However, with the perspective of 50 years on our side, we can say with Tolkien that he was a great man. For Lewis, the story continues and each chapter gets better.

And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily every after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.  The Last Battle.