Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.
So wrote C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed (London: Faber and Faber, 1966, p.23). He was reflecting on his experience of grief following the death of his wife, Joy.
My experience of (an admittedly lesser) grief following the death of my aged mother has been different. Being the intellectual he was, I think Lewis writes of a consolation or comfort of thought. Religion does little to satisfy wonderings about the whereabouts of one’s dead (not ‘departed’) loved one or the possibility of reunion. But gathering with ‘religious’ and other friends has been the most comforting thing in dealing such grief as I have experienced.
James and I went to church in my parent’s town the day before my mother’s funeral. On the way out, I paused to light a candle (not something I would usually do) and the tears hit me for the first time since her death. A week later, in our home church in Canberra, the same thing happened as the congregation prayed for ‘those who mourn’. Tears are a comfort and, unlike Lewis, I experienced comfort most strongly through the practice of ‘religion’.
Actually, it’s the presence of the Holy Spirit that is the true comfort. The old translations call the Spirit ‘The Comforter’, after all (John 14.16,26; 15.26; 16.7 KJV).