Fifty years ago today, on 22 November, 1963, C.S. Lewis departed this life to go to his true home to heaven. Though he no longer walks among us, he will never be forgotten. Here is a short story I wrote to express all that his words have meant to me, both as a reader and as a writer:
My Fairy Godfather
A fledgling writer’s inner child pays a visionary call upon C.S. Lewis, her favorite departed literary mentor, in his lodgings up in heaven.
Uncle Jack sat before the fire in a great, wing-backed arm-chair with a book in his lap, a pipe in his mouth and a drink at his elbow. I crept in quietly over the soft carpet, which shimmered like spun gold in the dancing firelight, and curled up at his feet.
A smile spread across his broad, honest face. “Do you want to hear a story, my dear?” he asked.
“I love your stories, Uncle Jack.” His stories had been the constant companions of my childhood. They taught me joy and freedom when I was being educated to believe in nothing but legalism and cheerless discipline. His books had set my heart free from demerits and dress codes and straight lines; free to run barefoot through the grass and to feel the warmth of Lion kisses on my face. But I had not come to hear a story. “There’s something I must tell you.”
“What is it?” He peered down at me over the thick, black rims of his large, round spectacles.
“Do you remember how you felt when you read George Macdonald’s book, Phantastes, for the first time? Like a door had been opened, the door into Fairy Land, and through it you could glimpse eternity? In The Great Divorce, you wrote about how Macdonald’s stories moved your heart and drew you to God. You saw holiness in them, though you didn’t recognize it as such in the beginning.”
“Yes.” He smiled wistfully.
“That’s how I’ve always felt about you. I’ve always thought of you as my godfather, my fairy godfather, if you will. You opened my eyes to another world. You were my spiritual mentor, and my companion, and a very great comfort to me, especially since I had no father of my own at the time.”
“One far greater than I is the Father to the fatherless,” he reminded me.
“Yes, I understand that, but what I wanted to tell you is thanks for letting Him speak through you.”
The fragrance of his pipe filled the room like incense. “The pleasure was all mine,” he sighed.
We sat gazing into the fire, silent for a while in a mutual reverie, remembering the places and the people once more: Narnia, Archenland, Calormen, the Lone Islands, Aslan’s country. They were places created in his heart which I had been fortunate enough to visit only because he had shown the way. Even better were the people: first of all Aslan (who else?) and Peter, Edmund and Susan, Caspian and Reepicheep, Rillian, Eustace, Jill and Puddleglum, Hwin, Bree, Shasta and Aravis, and Tirian and Jewel, all of them dear, dear friends, because he had introduced us. And of course, I could never forget the lovely, joyful, golden-haired girl, more dear to me than a sister, Queen Lucy the Valiant.
I rested my head against his knee and said, “When I grow up, I want to be a writer, just like you.”
“Just like me?” he chuckled, “Heavens, I should hope not!”
I looked up at him, my brow furrowing in disappointment.
“My dear, you must find your own voice. You must follow His path for you, not another’s. And you must have patience. In time, He will give you a voice both strong and fair and, perhaps, young readers who will one day become your very own godchildren. But even if no one ever reads a word you write, remember you already have an indispensable part in His story. Your name is in His book, you know.”
I drew his hand to my lips and kissed it, tears of joy welling in my eyes. “Thank you,” I whispered.
“You know,” he said, patting my hand, “I should also thank you.”
“Well, I never had a little girl, but in you, I have a posterity of sorts. You’re like a granddaughter to me.”
“Probably a great-granddaughter.”
“Goodness, has it been so long?”
“I’m afraid so. But your name is well-remembered. Your words live on.”
He snorted derisively. “What is poetic immortality in comparison with that which is Life indeed?”
I couldn’t help but smile.
“But back to the point,” he went on, “you have been the best audience any writer could ever hope for, someone whose heart was inspired by my words.”
“Someone who saw the same truth?”
“Precisely. We are friends, though from afar. I’ve shown you the beauty and wonder that I saw and you have loved it, just as I did.”
I smiled. “The pleasure was all mine.”
“My words have blessed you, and your warm admiration has blessed me, and in all of this God’s heart is blessed because it was really His story all along.”
I looked up at him fondly. “Thank you again, dear Uncle. I look forward to meeting you in person, and not just on paper.”
“I’ll tell you something, my dear. I and some of my friends (Tolkien, Macdonald, Bunyan, and Bede, to name a few) have a little group that meets to read all sorts of things aloud. Once you’ve joined us here, in my Father’s house, why don’t you come and share one of your stories with us?”
I clapped my hands, delighted by the prospect of one day visiting that great Inklings meeting in the sky. “Oh, Uncle Jack! There’s nothing I’d like more.”
“And now, good night, dear heart. You will find your voice, no doubt, and I shall look forward to hearing your stories, because they will really be His, and His stories are all well worth hearing. Now run along.” He shooed me off, like a child who has stayed up past her bedtime.
“Good night, Uncle Jack,” I whispered, lingering a moment longer, “and God bless you.”
Rebecca D. Bruner © 2013 in My Fairy Godfather: Collected Short Stories