Quote harvesting: A Grief Observed

I’m in the early days of a new writing project which, for me means reading what lots of other people have already written about the thing I want to write about and then filling many pages with quotes.

(I call it my “quote harvesting” phase, hence the title of this post.)

I read C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed a few weeks ago and spent some unexpected free time on Friday transcribing the passages I highlighted during my first pass through the book.

Here are some that just wrecked me—with a little commentary, if I may.

“I keep on swallowing.” (I love that he found this notable.)

“I almost prefer the moments of agony. These are at least clean and honest. But the bath of self-pity, the wallow, the loathsome sticky-sweet pleasure of indulging it—that disgusts me. And even while I”m doing it I know it leads me to misrepresent H. herself. Give that mood its head and in a few minutes I shall substituted for the real woman a mere doll to be blubbered over. Thank God the memory of  her is still too strong (will it always be too strong?) to let me get away with it.” (The “clean and honest” part cut deep. Feelings—even if they are painful—that can be categorized easily are so much more bearable, in my opinion. Once emotions are layered they are suffocating.)

“It’s hard to have patience with people who say, ‘There is no death’ or ‘Death doesn’t matter.’ There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn’t matter. I look up at the night sky. Is anything more certain than that in all those vast times and spaces, if I were allowed to search them, I should nowhere find her face, her voice, her touch? She died. She is dead. Is the word so difficult to learn?” (JUST SAY THE WORD, EVERYONE.)

“One flesh. Or, if you prefer, one ship. The starboard engine has gone. I, the port engine, must chug along somehow till we make harbor. Or rather, till the journey ends. How can I assume a harbour? A lee shore, more likely, a black night, a deafening gale, breakers ahead—and any lights shown from the land probably being waved by wreckers. Such was H.’s landfall. Such was my mother’s. I say their landfalls; not their arrivals.” (I had to look up what “lee shore” meant, and it took me a long time to understand—I don’t have much nautical context from which to pull. Once I got it, wow. I’ll leave you to look it up yourself so you can experience that wallop yourself.)

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