I call Psalm 23 the ‘popular death Psalm’. It is read at nearly every funeral service that is in any form Christian based. It is meant to bring comfort to those who grieve. When we are first beginning our journey of grief, it may not, however. Our only thought is that we want our loved one back. I know I was not seeking out ‘comfort’ when my son had died. The only thing that could have brought me comfort is for him to walk into the room and for me to awake from the horrible nightmare I was living. I didn’t want any ‘light’ shone into my darkness. For months… for years… I lived in those ‘shadows of darkness’. Daily, I walked through the ‘valley of the shadow of death’.
Psalm 23:4 (ESV)
4 Even 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.
I do not see it as a coincidence that I chose to purchase a small little fishing camp in a valley just one year after my son’s demise as a place of healing. In his honor, I dedicated it and named it: ‘Neon Genesis’ meaning ‘New Beginnings’. When a dear friend from my Church sent me these verses: Is. 57:1-2
The righteous perishes,
And no man takes it to heart;
Merciful men are taken away,
While no one considers
That the righteous is taken away from evil.
He shall enter into peace;
They shall rest in their beds,
Each one walking in his uprightness.,
I took note of them, but quickly set them aside. Was she somehow trying to tell me that there was some ‘good’ in the fact that my son was gone? This was not possible. All I could see was the darkness of death. To me, it was not a ‘shadow’, it was pure undefiled darkness. It just so happens that in this valley where my camp exists, there is an old train tunnel that runs through the mountain behind it. There is one spot in the bend of this tunnel that terrifies me. After seventeen years, I still will not venture through this spot without holding another’s hand. No light can be seen from either opening. It is completely pitch black. I move quite slowly through this particular spot. I’m not really sure why holding another’s hand while passing through it calms my fears, after all they, too, are walking through the same darkness. But, it does. Perhaps it’s simply the ‘knowing’ that I am not alone.
These eighteen years have been a constant struggle to climb this mountain of grief. Somehow, some way, we do begin to see some flickers of light at the end of this tunnel. At some point, a turning point, it’s as if God breathes into our darkness saying: “Let there be Light”. I am unable to pinpoint the time or place in which this occurs; I just now know that it does. I began to embrace those verses in Isaiah; I began to believe that my son is truly better off being with the Lord than here in this fallen world. I began to see ways in which God had prepared me; knowing He knew this would occur brought me some peace. My son is named after Psalm 23: “your rod and your staff, they comfort me”. His name is Roderick Stafford aka Roddy; and he remains a comfort to me. I continue to grieve, but I have learned to grieve with Hope as spoken about in 1 Thessalonians 4. I will see my son again. He is not ‘lost’; he is not ‘gone’. His soul is restfully sleeping as his spirit is very much alive before God’s Throne of Grace; his body awaits the Glorious Resurrection when the corruptible shall put on the incorruptible (! Cor. 15:53-54).
I miss him. There are simply no adequate words to describe either the depth or the intensity of that ‘missing’. The pain of it is incomprehensible to anyone who has not walked this path. I do now know, however, that God loves him even more than I do. I do now trust that calling Him Home at such a time was for his best. I don’t know what may have laid ahead in my son’s journey here on earth, but I know it must not have been good and that our Merciful Heavenly Father saved him from whatever it was. When I see my son again, it will all make sense and I will marvel at the Love of God. If my pain was in exchange for my son’s eternal life of bliss, so be it. I gladly lay it all on the altar, all at the foot of the Cross, for what is best for my son. Nothing he may have had on this earth can compare with being in the presence of our Glorious Creator. No, the darkness cannot comprehend the Light (John 1:5). But when those flickers of light begin to be recognized, the dark clouds must scatter. The sun’s light will, eventually, shine anew again. There will come a day when we shall all with rejoicing proclaim:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor. 15:54b)
(((HUGS))) Jude Gibbs, Author of ‘Gifts from the Ashes’ available at:
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