Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | January 12, 2014

Another Grief Observed

His not mine.  Mine is not yours.

His, not mine. Mine is not yours.

After my wife, Nellie Katherine Kyle Bowden, died on December 9th, 2013, I read ” A Grief Observed” for the third time.  The passing of almost 30 years provides a new perspective.

His grief isn’t mine.  My grief isn’t yours.

Yet, his sharing and mine are born, I believe, from the desire to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and give lovingkindness to others.  Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

I’ve been writing down what I think and feel – as if feelings and thoughts could be distinguished in such a time of grief.   A year or so from now, as I live still, I’m going to look at my scribblings and see if I have “A Grief Felt” to self-publish.  We’ll see.

The foreword to my latest version of C.S. Lewis’s book is 7 of 89 pages.  Not insignificant.  Madeline L’Engle pours out her grief after losing her husband of 40 years in 1988.  Her experience is closer to mine than Lewis’s.  Yet, when she writes, “But where Joy Davidman is now, or where my husband is, no priest, no minister, no theologian can put into the the limited of terms of provable fact,” I demur.  No, they can’t, but the one, only, true, living sovereign God of the Universe can.  He did when he answered my 7 year prayer after my Daddy died (

My grief is more about feeling than thinking.  Ironic and interesting, since I am a learned man – who honestly could be called an ‘intellectual’ without associated pejoratives.  It’s all about experiencing this unique grief.

C.S. Lewis writes “But don’t come talking to me about the consolation of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.”  I offer – relationship, not religion, with God offers unbelievable consolation.  Unimaginable consolation and strength.

“If God’s goodness is inconsistent with hurting us, then either God is not good or there is not God: for in the only life we know He hurts us beyond our worst fears and beyond all we can imagine.”   No, learn the book of Job.   That’s simply not so.  God’s hurts are like the shepherd striking the sheep.  Even the refiner’s fire promises bright silver on the other side.  God’s promises are to go through all things.  Through the fire, the water, the lion’s den, the belly of the whale, the cross and grave.

Worse is how he recalls their false hopes through cancer.  He calls that ‘torture’.  “If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary.  For no even moderately good Being could possible inflict or permit them if they weren’t.”   Except, God doesn’t inflict evil.  He has permitted it – for a long time – but will triumph over it.  He allows the most awful things ever that we can imagine, because He makes it all better.  He heals all.  Fixes all.  Makes all wonderful – not here – in Heaven.   And, for all eternity.

Lewis writes like his wife’s death is about him.  It wasn’t.  And, he seems to have survivor guilt – which I understand.

How clearly he describes grief’s agony reoccurring like it did the first time.  “The same leg is cut off time after time.”

And, “Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions.  The notions will be all knocked from under our feet.  We shall see there never was any problem.”  Amen, from my vision of March 15, 1987.

Lewis wonders if the dead see us.  One daughter and her children wonder so.  I don’t know the rules.  Find only suggestions in the Bible.

He wondered if God created a primate as a  grand experiment and enterprise to “get on with it. Become a god.”  I believe our creation was for worship and fellowship.

Before his wife died, he said, “If you can – if it is allowed – come to me when I too am on my death bed.”  She said, “Allowed!  Heaven would have a job to hold me; as for Hell, I’d break it into bits.”   When my family left the room to let me have the last farewell to my wife’s body, I begged her to do the same.  “Please, please, please come back for me when my time comes.  We can come back together for our children and grandchildren. ”

Until then we’ll all live life.

Nellie Katherine Kyle Bowden will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday, February 21st, 2014.

We’ll observe more grief until we draw our last breath.   We’ll feel our grief.  And, because He lives, we will too.



  1. Robert Melvina Holland League is the mother of Daniel W. League. This son is the father of Shirley Eleanor League Whitmire. She is my mother and is still living at age ninety eight. Your mother and my mother are first cousins. I believe I met you once at a family reunion at Bethel Methodist Church. Your writings ” Raise Me Up So I Can Stand On Mountains.” I send my deepest affections to you and your Nellie during this period of change in your lives.

    Eddie Marie Whitmire Graham

    • We’ve met more than once at the Reunion. Thanks. Nellie Katherine has been there too. I hope Shirley is as well as she can be. I understand her difficulties. Best, Bubba

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