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1950 – C.S. Lewis, professor at Oxford and author of the Narnia books, receives a letter from Joy Davidman, american poet, novelist and screenwriter, expressing her gratitude and the influence his books had on her faith. They soon become pen pals.
1952 – Joy and Lewis meet for the first time at Oxford. Seventeen years his junior, Joy is the total opposite of Lewis, the eternal ascetic bachelor: about to divorce, lively & uninhibited, invested in left-wing politics and gone from Jewish, atheist to christian.
She moves with her kids to England, only seeing Lewis irregularly.
On September 15, the third installment in the Chronicles of Narnia series, ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ is released.
1955 – She helps Lewis brainstorm his book Till We Have Faces and moves to Oxford in August, at walking distance of Lewis’ home and work. He immediately begins to visit her every day. She learns soon after that, unless she and her son became English subjects, they would not be allowed to stay.
1956 – Lewis, believing in a distinction between civil and christian marriage, comes up with a plan to allow her and her sons to stay in England: Marrying her. They marry legally on April 23, 1956, and Joy moves to his home. Even if Joy always had intentions on him from the start and Lewis’ unsaid interest, the wedding is at this stage nothing but a pure legal formality.
In October, she fells while reaching for a phone and screams in agony, feeling her left femur snapping. The medical verdict is brutal: Her femur has been eaten away by cancer… and she has tumors in her right shoulder, right left, and left breast.
She goes through several operations to remove her cancers… but there is only little hope that she will survive in the long haul.
1957 – Lewis battles with the Church of England in order to marry Joy on a religious wedding, as the Church does not allow remarriage after divorce. Lewis ask for the help of a friend, priest Peter Bide, who marries Joy and Lewis in her hospital room on March 21, 1957.
Nurses and doctors predicted no more than a few months of life, but Peter Bide, having what the church calls the gift of healing, touches her and prays for her recovery after the union.
1959 – Joy is able to walk again, her doctor blown away by the solidity of her bones, and C.S Lewis writes an essay on the Efficacy of Prayer in the Atlantic. Oddly enough, as Joy’s health is getting better, his own is declining, and gets osteoporosis.
They take a plane for the first time, going on honeymoon in Ireland, deciding to enjoy life at the fullest.
Unfortunately the recovery is only temporary and the cancers are coming back. Despite Joy’s weakness and great pain, they decide to carry on through a trip to Greece with friends, in which Lewis discovers the places he worshiped as a Greek scholar, and they all drink along with Joy, who had to consume custom made alcoholic beverages to ease her pain.
On July 13, three months after the trip, she wakes up early, in agony.
Late in the evening, she is no more.
In 1961, C.S Lewis writes A Grief Observed under a pseudonym, compiling his thoughts about grief, faith, and its significance after the loss of Joy Davidman.
Screenwriter William Nicholson (Les Misérables, Gladiator) wrote the television film Shadowlands in 1985, chronicling the love story between C. S. Lewis & Joy Davidman and her eventual death.
In 1993, he adapted it for the big screen for an eponymous movie directed by Richard Attenborough starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.
The third novel in the Narnia series ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ has been adapted into a feature film in 2010. Despite the saga’s success on screen, a fourth sequel is unlikely in the near future, as the contract between the C. S. Lewis estate and the production company Walden Media failed to be renewed.
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