I write this with tears still staining my cheeks. I find it best to write with strong emotion coarsing through, as it usually results in a piece which will be finished. Countless drafts of pieces are saved to this blog, unfinished due to some notion that they are not ready.
This piece acts (in some respects) as a review of Shadowlands, Richard Attenborough’s 1993 masterpiece, which follows acclaimed author and Christian apologist CS Lewis (Anthony Hopkins) as he falls in love with an American author named Joy Davidman (Debra Winger).
Anyone who knows this tale knows that it does not, in the strictest sense, end well. Joy develops cancer and dies, leaving Jack – as Lewis was more affectionately known – grappling with his emotions and his faith and spawning one of his greatest works, A Grief Observed.
Here, Lewis speaks from an experience which is missing from his previous work. Here, he realises just how important it is to grieve at the time that it happens.
Of course grief is not something that be controlled in terms of its occurences and reoccurences. Grief comes and hits us when we least expect it, when we least want and, quite frankly, it can be absolutely crippling. Towards the end of the film, as Jack sits at Joy’s bedside for the last time, I found myself confronted by an intense memory of myself from around two and a half years ago.
I was sat around the hospital bed of my grandpa in the middle of the night, quite literally waiting for him to die. And I just cried.
I couldn’t help but to cry.
All of us will, at some point, suffer a devastating loss and all of us will grieve in different ways, going through the stages at different times, for different lengths. And crying will almost undoubtedly be a part of that.
We should not be ashamed of that. In the immediate aftermath of my grandpa’s death I struggled to hold it together when confronted by a fig roll. An inanimate object seemed to be goading me – a ridiculous assertion now, perhaps, but I stand by it.
And no matter how often those like Piers Morgan may tell you otherwise, you should not “man up”. Share your emotion, cry on your own timetable and, most importantly, talk through what you are feeling with those close to you.
Shadowlands is ultimately one of my top 5 films of all time and, despite numerous serious inaccuracies, captures the feeling of CS Lewis’ joy and grief almost perfectly. Hopkins and Winger deserve far more praise than they got for this film and the supporting actors are also wonderfully cast.
I leave you with one final thought:
When confronted with a bereavement, many people run. Some run towards God and others away from Him yet, ultimately, it will not matter. We will all end up confronted by our own, personal mortality and thus by the very question of our existence and God Himself.
Whatever our beliefs, whatever our personal struggle, we have a decision to make.
I’m still not sure whether I’ve made mine.