The Wood Between The Worlds

Sunday, Apr 23, 2023
Jim Sutton

C.S. Lewis wrote about a place where all of time and space is accessible, what today we would call a portal to other places and times. In the book “The Magicians Nephew”, Polly and Digory find this place quite by accident when acting on curiosity. For many of us that care for loved ones that exhibit symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer's, the experience from a caregiver seems like our loved one is in a place where their reality is not tied to time, space or what their senses would otherwise suggest of their physical situation.

My wife and I were witnesses to how fast this can happen in the case of my Mother. While signs were evident that there were changes as she approached her mid to late 80’s, we were not prepared for the significant changes that would occur after the results of a previous medically unobserved stroke and subsequent TIA’s that occurred during hospitalization after an event where she had lost the ability to speak for a short time.

We were thrust into a world where decisions came fast, and answers were few. It was a place between the reality we had known with her from the beginning. It was a reality that deviated from anything that resembled what had been. And we are there, walking through those woods, looking for the existence of a portal that will return life for her and everyone who loves her back to a normal we can understand and live with. So far that place is elusive.

In C.S. Lewis’ book, one of the portals led to a world that was nearly dead represented by a city named Charn, a place that had been locked up from ever changing into something resembling life. Another portal led to a world that was yet to be created that would later be named Narnia, but it was waiting for an event that would impact its destiny. Perhaps one can look at the end of life of a loved one through that window of understanding C.S. Lewis gave us. One world that exists with that person will cease to exist upon their passing on from this earth. Another world will exist from that point on with the memory of that place, a new world where some things may continue, such as gravity, love, light, evil and hope. Other things such as the ability to converse, enjoy a meal together or experience something new or cherished with that person will cease to be possible, however.

We are in the wood between the worlds with my Mother right now, not knowing what change we shall encounter in the coming days. I’m wishing we cold go back to the old reality, but as the days slip by, that becomes more of a remote possibility. By some miracle there is a possibility we could travel back to that place. But travel we will. Whether it is a return to something resembling the old normal, something that includes her in that place; or something that results in a temporary parting as we travel back to a world without her. This would be a different world where some experiences are no longer possible and new experiences await us that were not possible before. In both places, time and space will continue as a fixed reality. But in either eventuality we will have taken with us the memory of the wood between the worlds where time and space stood still for a time between what was and what will be.


7 months ago - Jim. S. - TXReply
So several months later we traveled away from the "wood between the worlds" place with Mom. She is no longer with us physically, but the reality of having known her and the memories that exist will stay with us in this new place. I'm putting her life diary online in a protected location for those who knew and loved her to know her thoughts as she traveled through life. The diary starts in 1956 and ends the year before she passed. For anyone reading this comment, contact me if you want access to this diary.

9 months ago - Lorin. S. - CAReply
I don’t recall how CS Lewis treated the portals in his book. I agree that, a person in an altered mind (like mom with dementia) is in a different “place”, with “place” defined as where a person perceives themselves. Y’all in TX and us in CA, our places are a couple thousand miles apart of y’all, and a couple of time zones away. That “portal” of the phone connects us (even on video calls!). We haven’t got a landline, one bar of cell reception, or a fax to connect us to mom’s place. We haven’t a map or any geo coordinates for the place where mom lives now. Seems like the only transmission she may understand is the faint, fading, far reception of our voices and the sudden sureness of our touch, as she exists in that absolutely unknowable place. A haunting thought. Yet we hope we are encouraging. I don’t know how closely she yearns to hear a familiar voice in her foggy forest of dementia. There must be so much “unreal” static that wears her down.