I have had death and dying on my mind for some time now, not constantly, just fitfully re-emerging at odd moments and tugging at my consciousness. With it comes a tingle of fear, a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Why? There are a combination of factors, my age, the fact that at the moment I’m serving an older congregation, and certainly my reading; C. S. Lewis and Charles Williams among others.
From C. S. Lewis the figure of Mark Studdock contemplating death in his cell at Belbury comes to mind. “The killing was the important thing. On any view, this body—this limp, shaking, desperately vivid thing, so intimately his own was going to be returned into a dead body,”[i] or again, It came to him as a totally new idea that this very hand, with its five nails and the yellow tobacco stain on the inside fingers, would one day be the hand of a corpse, and later the hand of a skeleton.”[ii]
It may also be the result of watching too many C. S. I. shows with their callous dismemberment of human bodies. Did the internment of ashes in Ireland this summer also play a role? One thing, is evident, I have always have had a highly participatory imagination.
Tonight I have been reading and understanding as never before Charles Williams’s novel, Descent into Hell. I have known for some time that Williams is not good bed-time reading, at least not for me. It is not for nothing that we are told not to fear him who can kill the body. Death is only a passage into life.