The shadows lengthen, the sun is obscured by the cliffs on either side of the path. The air is heavy, our breathing labored. I’ve been in this place before. I recognize the terrain, the sights and smells. I hear the rustle of Death’s robe as he follows at a distance. His breath quickens as he draws near in anticipation of his next victim.
We have entered the Valley of the Shadow of Death. How I despise this part of life’s journey.
And yet, there is much to be seen and learned in this place if those attending the sojourner pay attention. For it is also a place of comfort, of hope, and the nearness of Jesus for those who have entrusted themselves to His care.
This will be a short trip this time, I think. My dear friend – more like a father to me than my own ever was – has bone cancer. He’s fading quickly.
Thoughts of the loss of another beloved one in this place scrape on my raw emotions like a claw. It was just eight years, one month and six days ago that my mother’s journey through this valley ended.
At the same time, sweet memories of the last trip lay play like wispy mist while we walk. We talk of those times, my friend and I. We remember dreams of an angel enfolding Mom in his wings, of watching her play with “baby angels” while she was recovering from her surgery. The outline of a Lion in the picture at the end of her bed (Aslan standing guard!).
I tell him of her decision to discontinue the medication she was on – it wasn’t working; her conversation with the doctor,
“Yes, I am ready to die.”
We talk about how I watched her make the last knot in her “needlework,” poke the needle into the pincushion, and smooth out her last bit of work during drug-induced sleep; the opening of her sightless eyes minutes before she left us – the gift of a final farewell to her family….and the feather that fell from a bird-less sky the afternoon she left us.
It was a painful time, a fretful time, and yet a time of great hope.
It seems that we’re very nearly on the same path once again. I’ve seen that stump before, and that gnarled tree over there, too.
This all sounds so somber and heavy, to tell it in this way. In some ways it is. Thankfully, the separation won’t be forever, though.
For my friend, it is an adventure. “Wow! I’ve never died before. I wonder what it will be like? This is exciting!” was his joyous response when he was given the news. Only someone who knows where they are going can react like that.
And he knows! With barely a backward glance at those of us who will remain on earth, he’s ready – eager to be reunited with his wife. They’ve been separated for two long years.
(She’s been keeping my mom company – I’ll bet the two of them have made quilts for each of our homes from the finest fabrics heaven has to offer, and painting pictures to grace our walls.)
We’ve talked for many hours about what lies beyond the gossamer-thin veil that separates this world from the next. We’ve spun some exciting stories about things we hope to do and see. The most amazing activity we long for is our first face-to-face visit with Jesus Himself. Oh, what will that be like? we wonder.
Our favorite topic is: What will we be doing a million years from today? We will certainly be doing something! The Bible says we will be like Jesus when we see Him. That’s AWESOME!
Did you ever read in the Bible about the stuff that He did after He rose from the dead?
He ate and drank. He could be touched. He was reunited with those He loved.
He flew! Right up into the atmosphere without a jet pack or oxygen tank.
My personal favorite is:
POOF! Now you see Him inside a locked room.
POOF! Now you don’t!
I’m gonna have fun with that one for about the first hundred years.
Yeah, I hate this valley, but it isn’t so bad when I remember that separation will only be for a little while. We will see one another again. Because we know Jesus, we will never see Death, but pass from life to life.
The Bible describes it as
“Mortality being swallowed up by life.”
Now, that’s good news!
Thank You, Jesus, that You have not left us without hope. I will dearly miss my friend, but I’m so thankful that I will not “lose” him. I’ll know right where to find him, and that’s with You.
Thank You for Your comfort and support as we walk through this valley. I’m so glad that it’s only the “shadow” of Death, for Death cannot touch those who belong to You.
I’m glad that we will live forever with You – and never have to deal with death, sickness, sorrow, guilt, shame, or evil forever after. Now that is good news indeed!