C.S. Lewis on the death of Charles Williams

I have heard (from a lady) that he himself, before he went into hospital, had some expectation that he was going there to die.  We, his male friends at Oxford, had had no notion that he was even ill until we heard that he was in the Radcliffe Infirmary; nor did we then suspect that the trouble was serious.  I heard of his death at the Infirmary itself, having walked up there with a book I wanted to lend him, expecting this news that day as little (almost) as I expected to die that day myself.

It was a Tuesday morning., one of our times of meeting.  I thought he would have given me messages to take on to the others.  When I joined them with my actual message — it was only a few minutes' walk from the Infirmary but, I remember, the very streets looked different — I had some difficulty in making them believe or even understand what had happened.  The world seemed to us at that moment primarily a strange one.

That sense of strangeness continued with a force which sorrow itself has never quite swallowed up.  This experience of loss (the greatest I have yet known) was wholly unlike what I should have expected.  We now verified for ourselves what so many bereaved people have reported; the ubiquitous presence of a dead man, as if he had ceased to meet us in particular places in order to meet us everywhere.  It is not in the least like a haunting.  It is not in the least like the bitter-sweet experiences of memory.  It is vital and bracing; it is even, however the word may be misunderstood and derided, exciting.

It is one of the many paradoxes in Williams that while no man's conversation was less gloomy in tone — it was, indeed, a continual flow of gaiety, enthusiasm, and high spirits — no man at times said darker things.  He never forgot the infinite menaces of life, the unremitted possibility of torture, maiming, madness, bereavement, and (over all) that economic insecurity which, as he said in War in Heaven, poisons our sorrows as well as modifying our joys. 

C.S. Lewis
Preface to “Essays Presented to Charles Williams”

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