Two classic works on grief are A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis and John Gunther’s Death Be Not Proud. Lewis was writing about the death of his wife, Joy Davidman Lewis; Gunther was writing about the death of his 17-year-old son from a brain tumor. Only the Lewis work is well known today, largely because Lewis is still well known today. (Lewis died in 1963 and Gunther, a well know journalist and author, in 1970.)
Lewis wrote from the perspective of faith, although a shaken one. Gunther write from a human, non-faith perspective. Both convey the depth of the pain and loss each man experienced.
The loss that prompts grief is always hard. Lewis moved in the direction of the idea of loss as grace; joy herself seems to have gotten there before he did. But loss and the grief it prompts are the measure of the love and feeling we have for the one who dies.
Grieving Grace by Douglas Spurling, a writer and blogger (Spurling Silver), fully embraces the idea of loss as grace. It is a small book with a large theme, prompted by the death of his mother-in-law Mary. The mother of 14 and grandmother of 100+, Mary died at 87. What Spurling has done here is essentially to keep a family journal of her last days, yet raise questions that apply to all of us.
In addition to chronicling her physical decline, Spurling asks probing and sometimes unexpected questions, such as how do you tell a loved one they’re dying? What is the withdrawal from this life actually like? What characteristics are common to the dying? What are the final days and hours like?
This is a work about dying, grieving, and loss, but it is also a work about love. It takes love – a lot of it – to tell someone it’s okay to let go, to move from this physical life we know to the life we don’t know but can only guess at and hope for, really.
Grieving Grace is a private journal written for the large extended family that is Mary’s. But it surpasses that,a nd becomes a record of dying, grief, and grace for all of us.
Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.