Loving and Losing

” ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all” (Tennyson)

Jack and Joy

Jack and Joy at the Kilns in Oxford

Today’s show tells the lovely (and tragic story) of C S Lewis’ marriage to Joy Gresham.   Jack did not marry until he was 58 years old and after three years of happiness he lost his wife to cancer.  His wife was named Helen Joy Davidman at birth but went by Joy all her life.  She was of Jewish background, a poet and a writer with a razor-sharp wit and a love for books.  Early in her life she became a Communist and wrote articles and edited the poetry column for one of their publications.  She married a fellow communist, Bill Gresham, who was handsome, charming and a writer, but who was rootless and a philosophical drifter.   They had two sons, David and Douglas, early in their marriage.

Joy Davidman (photo by Lottie Jacobi, 1951)

Joy Davidman in 1951

Although they both made a journey from Communism to Christianity, Bill soon retrogressed.  His repeated unfaithfulness caused the marriage to break up.  Joy corresponded with C S Lewis about some of the problems she was having with her faith and a real friendship developed.  She traveled to England so that she could speak to Lewis in person.  When a divorce was inevitable, she moved to England with her two sons and began to see more of Lewis.   She fell in love with him, and he with her, partly because of her courage in battling cancer.  They were married at her bedside in the hospital and she experience a remarkable remission of the cancer.  They were able to have 3 happy years together before the cancer returned and Joy died.

Joy Inscription

Inscription For Joy's marker

This story is told in a very appealing visual manner in the movie “Shadowlands”, with Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.   The material we cover in this podcast comes from three books.


“Jack; A Life of C S Lewis”  by George Sayer

“Through The Shadowlands” by Brian Sibley

“A Grief Observed” by C S Lewis





Leave a Reply