C.S. Lewis’s Last Letter (November 21, 1963)

N July of 1963 C.S. Lewis was in a coma for abour twenty-four hours. It looked as though he might die. “I can’t help feeling it was rather a pity I did revive in July,” Lewis wrote his best friend Arthur Greeves, “I mean, having been glided so painlessly up to the Gate it seems hard to have it shut in one’s face and know that the whole process must some day be gone thro’ again, and perhaps far less pleasantly! Poor Lazarus!”

Lewis’s letter to Greeves is dated September 11, 1963. His final words to his lifelong friend, “But oh Arthur, never to see you again!…” Lewis would pass a couple months later on November 22nd, the same day President Kennedy was assassinated.

Reading Lewis’s final letters is an emotional exercise for me. But his last letter, written the night before he died, is, in my estimation, the sweetest way to end a life so well lived.

As was Lewis’s custom, he endeavored to return all correspondence. And even in the last hours of life he took time to write a letter to a child. It is thoughtful, kind, and considerate, without a hint of condescension. Here’s the full transcript:

The Kilns

November 22, 1963

Dear Philip,

To begin with, may I congratulate you on writing such a remarkably good letter; I certainly could not have written it at your age. And to go on with, thank you for telling me that you like my books, a thing an author is always pleased to hear. It is a funny thing that all the children who have written to me see at once who Aslan is, and grown ups never do!

I haven’t myself read the Puffin reprint you refer to, so of course missed the fault; but I will call the publisher’s attention to it.

Please tell you father and mother how glad I am to hear that they find my serious books of some value.

With all best wishes to you and to them,

Yours sincerely,

C.S. Lewis