We Don’t Say Goodbye

04 Jan

Michael SmithI spent the summer of 1984 in Indianapolis with 50 or 60 of my closest friends.

It was a Navigator’s summer training program, and together with college students from all over Illinois, I lived for about 8 weeks at a sorority house on the Butler University campus.  We worked during the day – I managed to find work through Manpower, the temporary employment agency – and we all did Bible studies and heard messages in the evenings and on weekends.   It was a busy summer, and I grew a lot.

But it was that summer (most likely at the end of our time together) that I first remember hearing Michael W. Smith’s “Friends are friends forever,” a great song, even if it does seem a little cheeky three decades later.

The song came back to me after I spent some time with Elisabeth tonight.  We were reading A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanauken, the fascinating love story of Sheldon (“Van”) and his wife Davy, and how they came to know Jesus partly through the ministry of C.S. Lewis.  The couple was studying and living at Oxford when they began to research Christianity.  A seeker, Van wrote C.S. Lewis, by that time a famous Oxford don, and they all ended up becoming friends.  The book contains 18 letters from Lewis, and recounts some of his many conversations with Van.  Lots of fun for C.S. Lewis buffs.

Anyway, in the chapter we finished tonight, Van and Davy are leaving Oxford, and Van takes time for one last pint with his friend.  The theme of Michael W. Smith’s anthem song is resonant in their farewell:

On that last day I met C.S. Lewis at the Eastgate for lunch.  We talked, I recall, about death or rather, awakening after death.  Whatever it would be like, we thought, our response to it would be “Why, of course! Of course it’s like this.  How else could it have possibly been?” We both chuckled at that.  I said it would be a sort of coming home, and he agreed.  Lewis said that he hoped Davy and I would be coming back to England soon, for we mustn’t get out of touch.  “At all events,” he said with a cheerful grin, “we’ll certainly meet again, here – or there.”  Then it was time to go, and we drained our mugs.  When we emerged on to the busy High with the traffic streaming past, we shook hands, and he said: “I shan’t say goodbye.  We’ll meet again.” Then he plunged into the traffic.  I stood there watching him.  When he reached the pavement on the other side, he turned round as though he knew somehow that I would still be standing there in front of the Eastgate.  Then he raised his voice in a great roar that easily overcame the noise of the cars and buses.  Heads turned and at least one car swerved.  “Besides,” he bellowed with a great grin, “Christians NEVER say goodbye.”


Posted by on January 4, 2013 in Uncategorized


7 responses to “We Don’t Say Goodbye

  1. Mary Ayer

    January 5, 2013 at 8:57 am

    I’m glad I read this, b/c at first I thought you were somehow saying that Michael W. Smith died….Yes…Christians never do need to feel/grieve the same…what a tremendous gift from God!


    • rogerknowlton

      January 5, 2013 at 9:40 am

      Whoops. Didn’t mean to give that impression. As far as I know, MWS is alive and kickin. Yes, the “solong” rather than “goodbye” is a blessing of life in Christ.


  2. Dwayne Schmaltz

    January 5, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    Till We Meet Again. Dwayne


  3. JoAnn Karls

    January 6, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    Yes, when your loved one is Christian it’s so much easier to say “Til we meet again” but when that loved one “isn’t” it’s a hard, good-by


  4. John S Wren

    June 8, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    I just posted this on my Facebook Page, thanks very much. My son-in-laws father died, the funeral is today.

    The book came out long ago, that’s when I first read it in the first edition. Has evidently been changed since then, and I’d guess with good reason.

    My memory is clear on this, in the edition I read Lewis’s student is startled when Lewis just charges off across the street without saying any sort of goodbye, inspire of the fact it was clear to both that they’d never be meeting again for lunch as they had for years, which gave dramatic impact to Lewis turned on the other side of the street and yelled back, “don’t you know, Christians never say goodbye.”

    I say the change was probably made with good reason, I closed a letter to my Uncle Jerry sent when I’d learned he was sick with “as CS Lewis said, Christians Never Say Goodbye” or something like that. The letter got there after he’d just passed on, and these were not comforting words to my wonderful Aunt Lillian in the context, and made me wish I’d at least made a phone call.

    At least that’s how I remember it. If others had similar experiences, would be good reason for making the change, although it really does take the punch out of it.

    Of course, it’s possible this is my imagination at work. I’m often wrong, but never in doubt. 🙂

    I’m delighted to have discovered your website. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Roger Knowlton

    June 8, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    Thanks for the note, John! Blessings on you.



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