“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)”
I’ve always thought of “the valley of the shadow of death” selfishly, as in, “What if I am dying?” or “What if I am faced with (or sentenced to) death?” But as is the case with so much of the Bible, we can look at it from different angles. I admit I am no theologian, but can ALSO admit I work with a bunch of them at Global University (where I serve as the Director of Student Success). I’m sure one or two of them might let me know the following personal interpretation is not “biblically sound,” but I’m willing to risk it.
I believe we should make the Bible personal, and YES, try our best to understand it fully. If a personal interpretation is found, however, and does not go against the Word of God, I think it’s ok to gather any encouragement you can from that, all the while letting people know we’re not preaching it as “fact.”
Anyway, moving on.
I’ve had a hard time writing the blog this summer (and now fall) due to a tragedy I mentioned back in July: that of my daughter-in-law Maria losing her baby in the womb when my granddaughter, Rosalee, was 23 weeks and one day old. She was a stillbirth.
Yeah, that SUCKED, not to put too fine a point on it. I’d love to wax poetic about lessons learned or “finding God in the darkness,” but there’s just no other way to say it: that sucked.
The hurt is so deep, and the sadness so profound that, even as a writer, I find it hard to express.
While we as Christians believe death is merely the door to eternal life, losing someone can just rip your guts right out, especially if that someone is a purely innocent and wholesome baby who never gotta chance at life.
So it hit me this morning: maybe “the valley of the shadow of death” doesn’t just mean my own death, or threat of death, or as mentioned, a “sentence” of death. Perhaps it means walking through a dark valley while SURROUNDED by death. After all, we lost our precious Rosalee, and then a week later lost our Uncle Kenny at a too-young 58 years old.
What if the “valley of the shadow of death” also refers to those of us who are HAUNTED by the death of our loved ones?
Death is so abrupt; so ugly and painful. Leading up to July 13, my wife was so excited, she was buying pink, green, yellow and purple baby clothes about every week. There was even one time when she bought a couple outfits, deciding NOT to purchase a third, only to decide the next day to go back for the outfit she “left behind.” She couldn’t find it at the Burlington’s she’d visited the day before, so she drove all the way across town to the other Burlington’s just to find it.
She never did, and was kind of sad about it, to be honest.
With Rosalee’s passing, we went from planning a baby shower to planning a funeral.
“I wonder what she’ll look like?” we had smiled, before that terrible day. Before the great sadness.
“Will she have Maria’s reddish brown hair and freckles? Will she have Trey’s big feet?” we’d say, half-jokingly. “Will she have Maria’s infectious laugh or Trey’s curly hair?”
“When she’s born, can I hold Rosalee?” my three-year-old granddaughter, Jenna-Marie would ask.
“Of course you can, sweetie!” Maria would say, grinning her wide grin.
“I wanna hold her, too,” my eight-year-old grandson Joshua would say.
“You’ll get to hold her,” he would be reassured.
But all our hopes and dreams were savagely ripped from us on July 13, 2021.
I know, I know, “she’s with Jesus” and all that. I totally get it, man, but it still SUCKS. It hurts so bad my wife and I can barely talk about it. I tell myself Rosalee will never know pain, hunger, fear, darkness or death, but that’s just me trying to make sense of it all. It’s merely a desperate grasp at a silver lining within storm clouds which never seem to dissipate.
Don’t ever let ANYONE tell you to “just get over it.” Don’t let them make you feel bad by reminding you how much time has passed (as if you didn’t know that), and then shame you into apologizing for still hurting. The DEPTH of pain may let up some over the years (I’m not sure), but the scars will always remain.
I will fear no evil, for YOU, God, are with me.
I know You’ll never leave me or forsake me.
This is a crazy time, and people are just freakin’ DYIN’, ya know? I mean, they go into the hospital, are moved to ICU, put on a respirator and then they’re just GONE. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it’s so very, very heartbreaking.
Beyond all this, however, are the thousands and thousands of families who have experienced the same tragedy we did with Rosalee. I was actually really mad the other day, and said to my wife, “We’re just supposed to GO ON WITH LIFE, like nothing freakin’ happened, meanwhile, our hearts have been ripped out and stomped on. The world just keeps SPINNING and we’re supposed to walk around like everything is perfect.”
“How the FRICK are we supposed to just GO ON?” I nearly yelled, and then broke down into tears.
If you’ve lived this, or are still going through it, BELIEVE me, I understand. Like Trey says, “it comes in waves,” and we go from happy and laughing, to sad and even angry sometimes. The Lord knows this, and we’re not upsetting Him by having all these feelings. They’re perfectly normal, and in fact are part of the grieving process.
So, if you’re going through a time like this, please feel free to drop me a note below, and my family and I will pray for you. We have to stick together in these gloomy days.
And remember, sometimes the only comfort we can find is in the fact that God is with us. Some days, that’s the only “silver lining” there will ever be. That, and we have each other.