The Great Joke
'My love for Michael would never have gone bad. Not if we'd lived together for millions of years.'
'You are mistaken. And you must know. Haven't you met--down there--mothers who have their sons with them, in Hell? Does their love make them happy?'
'If you mean people like the Guthrie woman and her dreadful Bobby, of course not. I hope you're not suggesting...If I had Michael I'd be perfectly happy, even in that town. I wouldn't be always talking about him till everyone hated the sound of his name, which is what Winifred Guthrie does about her brat. I wouldn't quarrel with people for not taking enough notice of him and then be furiously jealous if they did. I wouldn't go about whining and complaining that he wasn't nice to me. Because, of course, he would be nice. Don't you dare to suggest that Michael could ever become like the Guthrie boy. There are some things I won't stand.'
'What you have seen in the Guthries is what natural affection turns to in the end if it will not be converted.'
'It's a lie. A wicked, cruel lie. How could anyone love their son more than I did? Haven't I lived only for his memory all these years?'
'That was rather a mistake, Pam. In your heart of hearts you know it was.'
'What was a mistake?'
'All that ten years' ritual of grief. Keeping his room exactly as he'd left it; keeping anniversaries; refusing to leave that house even though Dick and Muriel were both wretched there.'
'Of course they didn't care. I know that. I soon learned to expect no real sympathy from them.'
'You're wrong. No man ever felt his son's death more than Dick. Not many girls loved their brothers better than Muriel. It wasn't against Michael they revolted: it was against you--against having their whole life dominated by the tyranny of the past-- and not really even Michael's past, but your past.'
'You are heartless. Everyone is heartless. The past was all I had.'
'It was all you chose to have. It was the wrong way to deal with a sorrow. It was Egyptian--like embalming a dead body.'
'Oh, of course. I'm wrong. Everything I say or do is wrong, according to you.'
'But of course!' said the Spirit, shining with love and mirth so that my eyes were dazzled. 'That's what we all find when we reach this country. We've all been wrong! That's the great joke. There's no need to go on pretending one was right! After that we begin living.'
~C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, (1946)