Safe Passage – Part 3

I wrote the book, Safe Passage: Thinking Clearly about Life & Death, back in 2006. It was originally published in hardback and we have just now released a paperback version. You can find Safe Passage on Amazon and our website.


This is the third and final excerpt from my book, Safe Passage. It comes from the last chapter of the book where I examine the final days of C.S. Lewis.

What strikes me about Lewis is that not only did he have a great intellect, but his Christian faith was a living reality in his life. It was this faith that allowed him to embrace death and to joyfully anticipate its arrival.

However, it is important to point out that C.S. Lewis was quite a realist and was no stranger to death. He witnessed it first as a soldier who fought in World War I. He spent much of his midlife in England during the harrowing days of the German Blitz. He witnessed the deaths of many people he loved, his mother at age 10, and his wife of four years, Joy Davidson.

Yet to Lewis, our few years on earth are part of a much greater event that stretches into eternity. He also recognized that most of us are oblivious to that reality. In his book The Weight of Glory, he makes an observation that many would consider to be on the verge of lunacy. He believed that war, as devastating as it can be, can serve as a great blessing to humanity because it makes death real to us. He believed it was good when we are constantly reminded of our mortal­ity. It was only in the midst of war that we can clearly see what type of universe we live in, and we are forced to come to terms with it. In good times, when all is well, we are dis­illusioned into believing that earth is our permanent home, and in worldly happiness, we find satisfaction for the soul. Therefore, when death is constantly before our eyes, it can become an unexpected blessing by shattering this false assumption.

As I read more about Lewis’ life, I sense that he longed for heaven, as this is clearly evident in his writing. In The Chron­icles of Narnia, he describes it as “only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover of the title page; now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever and in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

In The Weight of Glory, he says:

“We know not what we shall be,” but we may be sure we shall be more, not less, than we were on earth. Our natural experiences (sensory, emotional, imag­inative) are only like the drawing, like penciled lines on flat paper. If they vanish in the risen life, they will vanish only as pencil lines vanish from the real land­scape, not as a candle flame that is put out but as a candle flame which becomes invisible because some­one has pulled up the blind, thrown open the shut­ters, and let in the blaze of the risen sun.

I find that it is easy to speak and write optimistically about death and heaven when it remains far from us, but as it draws near, its presence reveals the genuineness of our faith. In the case of C.S. Lewis, he never wavered.

Several years before his own death, he wrote in a letter to a Christian friend who was dying, these words of comfort:

Can you not see death as the friend and deliverer? It means stripping off that body which is torment­ing you: like taking off a hair shirt or getting out of a dungeon. What is there to be afraid of? . . . Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave it with regret? . . . There are better things ahead than any we leave behind . . . Don’t you think Our Lord says to you, ’Peace child, peace. Relax. Let go. Underneath are the everlasting arms . . .

For the last two years of his life, C.S. Lewis suffered from very poor health. He knew that death was at hand, and yet anticipated it with cheerfulness and peace. At one point he said, “If we really believe what we say we believe—if we really think that home is elsewhere and this life is a ‘wandering to find home,’ why should we not look forward to the arrival?”

Two weeks before he died, he had lunch with a faculty colleague and friend Richard Ladborough. It became appar­ent to Ladborough that this would probably be the last time they would be together in a personal setting. He made this observation: “I somehow felt it was the last time we should meet and when he escorted me, with his usual courtesy, to the door, I think he felt so too. Never was a man better prepared.”

Finally, a week before his death, he shared these words with his brother Warren: “I have done all that I was sent into the world to do, and I am ready to go.” His brother re­marked that “I have never seen death looked in the face so tranquilly.”

This is a picture of a man who was truly liberated from the fear of death. Lewis had clearly entrusted his eternal well-being to a living Savior, the One who “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gos­pel.”

Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.


Add grace and understanding to your day with words from Richard E. Simmons III in your inbox. Sign-up for weekly email with the latest blog post, podcast, and quote.

Fill out the form to receive wisdom in your inbox from Richard E. Simmons III.