My Greatest Fear!


Two years after his wife’s death, Vanauken writes: “…I found that my tears were dried. The grief had passed…. There was no sense of Davy’s being there with me, nor any sense that she was in the wind…. There were no more dreams…. This – the disappearance of the sense of the beloved’s presence and, therefore, the end of tears – this is the Second Death.” This “Second Death” is the point of the title of his book, “A Severe Mercy; a story of faith, tragedy, and triumph.”
I fear this severe mercy above all else. C. S. Lewis, after his experience of Joy’s presence, wrote in “A Grief observed”, “It was quite incredibly unemotional. Just the impression of her mind momentarily facing my own…. Yet, there was an extreme and cheerful intimacy. An intimacy that had not passed though the senses or emotions at all…. The intimacy was complete – sharply bracing and restorative too – without it.” His wife, Joy, died less than a year before he wrote this and he had bone cancer himself. He asked his wife on her death bed “If you can – if it is allowed – come to me when I too am on my death bed.” She had promised and I believe the presence he felt was the beginning of her keeping her promise. I think Lewis also did not want “severe mercy.” Unlike Vanauken he needed Joy’s presence and the promise that she would be there holding his hand at the end. He continues “There is also, whatever it means, the resurrection of the body. We cannot understand. The best is perhaps what we understand least.” I probably have longer than Lewis had when he accepted Joy’s presence but not the nearly 40 years from Vanauken’s time of his severe mercy, the second death, to his death. Never-the-less, please God no “Severe Mercy” for me. I need and want Pat’s presence dwelling in me forever as well as the promise of her being with me holding my hand when my time comes.
As I wrote in “Quiet Love …. Eyes to see and words to tell the truths that are most true,” “Patricia and I were lucky enough to discover that quiet, intense love that is basic to life itself; it is seldom found in real life. We had the eyes to see and the words to tell the truths that are most real to each other.” It is the kind of love Cynthia Bourgeault, in her “Love is stronger than Death; the mystical union of two souls,” was describing when she wrote: “In certain, perhaps rare, love relationships, instead of the normal imperative for letting go and getting on with life, there are subtle but clear signs that the journey with one’s beloved continues beyond the grave. Rather than ending, the walk together is only just getting under way….it also happens to real people. I know this because I am one of them.” Well I think Pat and I are also one of them. Right from the beginning we found God in our lives – He answered a prayer of mine when Pat became the first girl to come to Church with me. We made our marriage vows to God and to each other. We vowed to forgive one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ, and to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love.
In the first few weeks after Pat’s death I stumbled about in the numbness of grief. I felt empty. As Pat wrote in her dairy, “There was a kind of confusion about death itself – it’s impossible to understand of course. Like a rabbit in a magicians’ trick. Where did it go? The body remains, but the real woman has vanished!… I don’t believe that the live soul simply stops existing. It did exist; therefore, it still exists. Where? I suppose one must think in terms of heaven since one must visualize something…. Perhaps it is enough simply to believe the spirit does not die.” We both had read Tom Harpur’s “There is Life after Death” and we are also sure that there is life after death. Harpur wrote “…But I assure you that I am convinced of this as I am of anything in this world: a day is coming when all separations will be over. We will one day be reunited (in the words of the old hymn) with “whom we have loved long since and lost a while.” We will return to the source of our being, not as rivers return to the ocean and are swallowed by it, but as recognizable individuals.”
I am also convinced of the truth of Bourgeault’s experiences described in her book and think Pat and I are on a similar journey to our reunion in the arms of Christ. Bourgeault wrote: “I see the body of hope as a living, palpable, and conscious energy that holds the visible and invisible worlds together. It is the sap, metaphorically speaking, through which flows the higher communion – the sharing of personal love and the building up and unfolding of the wonders between two people. It is what makes possible the communion of substances between two beloved and the continuing growth of their one abler soul even when separated by death. It is the “holy element,” as Boehme would call it, that straddles heaven and earth and makes possible the most intimate connection between these two planes.”
I believe that my three experiences of communicating with Pat in the week after she died were the beginning of an experience similar to Bourgeault’s. It is not something that will end like Vanauken’s experiences. The fact that I have had other such experiences of Pat’s presence, communications, dreams, is evidence that our love is growing and we will reunite in one soul in Heaven. No Severe Mercy is needed or wanted, thank you very much.

About thebows99krug

Hi, I am Eric, a retired librarian. I was born in St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto and raised in the downtown area north of the Art Gallery, south of the University of Toronto. I went to Orde Street Public School, Harbord C.I., University College at the UofT and the UofT's Faculty of Library and Information Science. I meet my wife Patricia at FLIS; our first date was on November 15, 1968. We were engaged February 14, 1969 and married on June 21, 1969. Our family includes son, James; daughter-in-law, Erin; (both writers), grand-daughters, Vivian and Eleanor; and Sonic, a very friendly ginger tabby. My beloved wife died January 7, 2017 and our 19 year old cat Pooka died January 8, 2017. I would like to hear from any other class of '63 alumni of Harbord C.I. and class of '67 alumni of UofT's University College.
This entry was posted in Family, Grief, Poetry, Religion, Religion - Anglican. Bookmark the permalink.

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