In 2006, having been caring for my parents for some time, I found myself needing to come to terms with the fact that both of them were terminally ill. “So this is what it’s like to be walking through the valley of the shadow of death,” I reflected. I was surprised, since I had naively considered this psalm as only referring to one’s personal walk towards the end of life. I was to discover differently, and to learn that there is a lot of anguish in this valley, and much to be experienced.
We all walk through the darkness when loved ones are ill or in trouble or distress, and it’s an unmarked path. There are times, too, when our personal lives are dark and we seem to be hanging onto life by a thread, alone in our confusion. Others can bring help and comfort, shining a light into the darkness, but each of us has to find our own, trusting way forward. This poem records the way that I found, perhaps it may bring some help and comfort.
THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW
It was dark in the valley of the shadow of death
And lonely and sad;
I lived there and slept there
And anguished awhile;
Enduring took all that I had.
Nothing and no-one could show me the way
The path was not marked.
I stumbled along with prayers on my lips
And agony deep in my heart.
His was the strength that eased painful steps
Whilst matching His own to mine
His was the warmth in a life that seemed dead
His was the comfort sublime
He was there in the darkness
His wings overstretched
Sheltering me, tender and strong
He taught me the things that I needed to know
And He cosseted me with a song.
But all of His lessons led up to the one
That was whispered so gentle, so low
"Their work here is ended, their journey is done,
My child let your precious ones go."
So the shadows of death were melted away
In the will of the Great Noble One,
As each of my loved ones slipped quietly in
To the Presence of Yahweh's own Son.