Saturday, October 22, 2016

Joy Davidman's miraculous remission

In this post I'm going to quote some firsthand accounts concerning the miraculous remission of Joy Davidman's bone cancer. She became Lewis's wife. I'll be quoting from The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume lll: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963 (HarperOne, 2007). I will begin by quoting from the editor's (Walter Hooper) biographical sketch of Peter Bide. Bide was a former student of Lewis's, who became an Anglican priest. I will then quote from some of Lewis's letters. 


During the years of the war Bide had kept up with Lewis, visiting him whenever he passed through Oxford. In the spring of 1954 there was a terrible polio epidemic in the area [of Sussex], and numerous sufferers were moved by ambulances to the "fever hospital" where Bide was chaplain. One young boy named Michael Gallagher was seriously ill of cerebral meningitis and believed to be dying. Bide went on his knees beside the boy's bed, laid his hands on him, and prayed for his recovery. Michael did recover, and after being told about it Lewis was one of those who believed a miracle had been worked. 

Lewis remembered this when, in 1957, Joy was in the Wingfield-Morris Hostpital (now the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre), dying of cancer. He asked Bide to come up and lay hands on her. Although it was not expected that she would recover, Lewis would not consider moving Joy to The Kilns unless they were married in a Christian ceremony in addition to the civil marriage they had already contracted, but when Lewis asked the Bishop of Oxford for permission to marry he was refused on the grounds that her previous marriage was still valid. Bide arrived in Oxford on 20 March. As he later explained:

When Joy was diagnosed as having a sarcoma, Jack wrote to me and asked for me to come up and lay hands on her. I hesitated. The Michael case had mercifully made little or no noise but I had been aware of how easy it would have been for me to assume the role of "a priest with a gift of healing", so I made no attempt to exploit the gift, if gift it was…But Jack was a special case. Not only did I owe a considerable intellectual debt but the ordinary demands of friendship would have made it churlish to say no. So I went, and that was the beginning. 
In the end there seemed only one Court of Appeal. I asked myself what He would have done and that somehow finished the argument. The following morning I married them in the hospital ward with the Ward Sister and Warnie Lewis as witnesses. I laid hands on Joy and she lived for another three years (ibid. 1650-51).


Magdalene College,
November 27, 1957

My dear Arthur,

Our news is all very good. Joy's improvement has gone beyond anything we dared to hope and she can now (limping, of course, and with a stick) get about the house and into the garden.

(ibid. 900) 

Magdalen College,
November 27, 1957

My dear Van Auken,

My own news continues better than we ever dared to hope. The cancerous bones have rebuilt themselves in a way quite unusual and Joy can now walk: on a stick and with a limp, it is true, but it is a walk–and far less than a year ago it took three people to move her in bed and we often hurt her. He general health, and spirits, seem excellent. Of course the sword of Damocles hangs over us. Or should I say that circumstances have opened our eyes to see the sword which really hangs always over everyone.

C. S. Lewis
(ibid. 901)

The Kilns, Kiln Lane,
Headington Quarry,
December 13 1957

My dear Allens,

How every kind of you both to remember us at this season, and how very grateful my wife and I are for your prayers–prayers which have indeed been answered, for my wife is almost miraculously better. She will, alas, always been an invalid, but X-Ray photos show beyond any shadow of doubt that the diseased bone is healing; and now she can walk about the house, and even in the garden, with the aid of a stick. When I remember that this time last year she was under sentence of death, I have indeed much to be thankful for.

Yours ever,
C. S. Lewis
(ibid. 905-06)

Magdalene College,
27th, April, 1959

Dear Sister Madelva,

Thank you for your kind words about my wife. She was given a few weeks to live. A good man laid his hands on her and prayed. Now, two years later, she is walking about our wood pigeon shooting. At her last X-Ray check the doctor used the word "miraculous" -tho' I don't suppose he meant it quite as you or I would.

Yours sincerely
C. S. Lewis
(ibid. 1041)

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