The Scars of Life
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.
Have you ever walked through the valley of the shadow of death – either your own death or the death of someone close to you? If it was your own and you are reading this, obviously God rescued you from physical death and brought you back to life for a second chance. The day will come however for each of us, when the shadow of death will loom in front of us. In reality we live in death’s shadow from the moment of our birth. Because of sin we are all doomed to die someday.
It is pretty safe to say that most of us by the time we reach adulthood have experienced the death of someone close to us. There is nothing more devastating in this earthly life. It wouldn’t be quite as difficult if we all knew that we would live to the ripe old age of 90 or so. Oh, it is always hard to say good-bye, but our mother, father, grandma, grandpa, aunt or uncle who dies at age 90 has lived a long life. They have experienced all that this life has to offer. We are a little more prepared to let go of them.
For those who die in the Lord it is simply a matter of passing from this life into the next. I remember my own mother who died at age 82, saying to me several weeks before her death; I want to go home. She was ready to go. She had lived her life. She was tired of the battle and she knew where she was going. She was ready to be with the Lord. I wasn’t ready for her to go. I wanted so badly for her to get well and stay here with me. At one point I whispered in her ear through my tears; Mom I wish I could make you better. The reality finally set in though that God was taking her and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
So for those of us left behind, the death of an elderly friend or relative is sad, but not devastating. We are prepared for it. We know that no one on this earth will escape dying. It is when people whom we love die unexpectedly at a young age, or even during childhood from an illness or accident, that we feel truly devastated.
My first experience with the death of a loved one was when my grandmother passed away. She died at age 65 unexpectedly while she was at home peeling potatoes for dinner. I was seven years old. I don’t remember feeling devastated, but I truly missed her. She had lived right next door to my family. I had run in and out of her house everyday as if it were my own. My sister and I, along with our cousins, had spent many nights with her and grandpa. She was very loving and always patient with us. She baked with us, she sewed for us, and she doted on us. She loved us dearly and was always ready to defend us when we were in trouble. She saw the best in us, even when we were clearly in the wrong. I guess that’s what grandmas are for – to love us unconditionally.
|My Father and little brother|
My next brush with death took place a year later, almost to the day, when my father died suddenly of a fatal heart attack. He was 39 years old. This time I was devastated! I won’t lie. It was one of the most difficult times of my life. It left a permanent scar on my heart. He was there to tuck us into bed one night and the next morning he was gone. He left behind a young wife and three children – my sister (age 11), myself (age 8), and our little brother (age 3). It has been fifty some odd years now and I still miss him. I have wondered if he would be proud of me. I have wished he could have known my children.
Yes, I was devastated at his death, but not without hope. My father was a baptized child of God. He had faith and believed God’s promises. I knew he was in heaven. I knew I would see him again.
I am so blessed to have been born into a Christian heritage. I was baptized and became a member of God’s family when I was one month old. I had been taught the love of Jesus from birth. I knew even at the young age of eight years old that death was not the end for those who believed in and loved God. I had been taught God’s Word at home and in school. I had memorized the words of the apostle Paul from Romans 8:28 which state; And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. I prayed that God would help me to be strong. It was a sad and lonely next few years but I knew that my family would be blessed in some way through the death of my father.
Although the scars of my father’s death remain on my heart, they are healed. As I look back I am able to see that I have been truly blessed by it. I am not referring to physical blessings here, although I am able to see those also. No, I am referring to blessings such as a compassionate heart, knowing the value of life and knowing that it is a gift which should never be taken for granted. Most importantly I see the value in knowing my Savior. Without my faith it would have seemed hopeless and if my father had died without faith, it would have been hopeless. As it is, I know that he is in heaven. I know that I will see him again when I am called home, along with all of my loved ones who have died in the Lord.
Two years after our father’s death while our broken hearts were still healing, my mother remarried. We moved to a new town and became part of a new family. God was not done with us yet however. My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. (Hebrews 12: 5,6) Several years after our mother remarried, we were to experience more devastation.
Along with our step father came step siblings. We had two new sisters and a brother, all of whom were already adults when we came into the family. I became very close to the younger of my step sisters who was newly married. She and her husband lived next door to us. I loved her dearly and still do. She is one of the sweetest people I know.
About a year or so after her marriage she gave birth to a baby boy. They named him Eric. I love babies and spent many hours at her house playing with him. Each day after school, I jumped off the bus, dropped my books in the house and ran next door to see him. I learned how to bathe, feed and diaper him and I loved to dress him in the many cute outfits he had received as gifts. Before long he looked forward to seeing me also. He would greet me with a big smile. If he happened to be asleep when I arrived, I patiently waited for him to waken. I wonder sometimes how my sister put up with me but she was always very patient and loving and to this day she insists that she never minded having me there. She appreciated the time I spent with him as it allowed her to get things done. I remember many times playing with him while she ironed or cooked dinner. We were quite a close knit little threesome.
Eric grew healthy and strong. By his first birthday he weighed 30 pounds. I was not a very big person at age 12 and people would often comment as I carried him around that he was almost as big as I was. One day when he was about 18 months old, I went over after school for my usual visit and he was sick. He seemed to have the flu. He wouldn’t eat and he was running a fever and vomiting. I rocked him and comforted him.
In the days following he would seem better one day, but then the next he would be sick again. His parents kept taking him to the doctor and were being told; don’t worry – he just has the flu. This went on for several weeks and he was beginning to lose weight. His concerned parents opted to take him to a specialist. Tests were done and it was found that he had cancer. He was put into the hospital immediately, but after several surgeries and radiation treatments the doctors reported that there was nothing more they could do. It was just a matter of time. There was no Chemo Therapy yet back in the sixties. By this time, my sister had given birth to a little girl also and was pregnant with her third child.
|The gift of life|
Little Eric celebrated his second birthday on August 12, 1964 and he died on August 31, 1964. I was once more devastated by the death of a loved one, but again, not without hope. Little Eric had been baptized and become a member of God’s family on Sept. 9, 1962. Through his baptism he was a forgiven child of God and had received the gift of faith through the Holy Spirit. He was in heaven. My mother was with him at the end. Just before he died, he reached out his little hands to her. When she bent over to him he touched her face saying sunshine. My mother has always firmly believed that at that moment he was seeing Jesus and heaven before him. We know he is there and we will see him when we arrive. His mother gave birth to a baby girl on Sept. 5, 1964, the day after his funeral. In the midst of sorrow, God once again granted the joyful gift of life. Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)
The following poem was read at his funeral:
To All Parents (from God)
I’ll lend you for a little time
A little child of mine He said,
For you to love the while he lives
And mourn for when he’s dead.
It may be six or seven years,
Or twenty-two or three,
But will you, till I call him back,
Take care of him for me?
He’ll bring his charms to gladden you,
And shall his stay be brief,
You’ll have his lovely memories
As solace for your grief.
I cannot promise he will stay,
Since all from earth return,
But there are lessons taught down there
I want this child to learn.
I’ve looked the whole world over
In my search for teachers true
And from the throngs that crowd life’s lanes
I have selected you…
Now will you give him all your love,
Nor think the labor vain
Nor hate me when I come
To take him back again?
I fancied that I heard them say:
Dear Lord, Thy will be done,
For all the joy thy child shall bring
The risk of grief we’ll run
We’ll shelter him with tenderness,
We’ll love him while we may,
And for the happiness we’ve known
Forever grateful stay.
But shall the angels call for him
Much sooner than we’ve planned
We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes
And try to understand. (by Edgar Guest)
Yes, I have some pretty big scars on my emotional being from the loss of loved ones to death. The scar on my heart from Eric’s death is huge. It needed a lot of stitches and it is still visible, but God healed it. Are you, or is someone you know beginning the long walk through the valley of the shadow of death? We will all go there someday. Make sure of where you are going. Let God, through His Word light the path for you so that you will not stumble and fall or get lost and turn down the wrong road – the one which leads to eternal death. Do your children and loved ones know the way? Do your friends know the way? We are saved through faith in Jesus, God’s one and only Son. He took the punishment we deserve for our sin upon himself and died in our place. Through His suffering and death on the cross we are made holy in God’s eyes. Through His resurrection he conquered death and defeated the devil’s hold on us. We are washed in His blood and made perfect for heaven.
Baptism is the only way for little babies to come to faith. Jesus gives parents the responsibility of bringing their children to baptism in Matthew 28: 19, 20 when he says; Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you… Babies and children are included in the words all nations.
I’m sure that the Lord is still not done with me. There will be more scars on my heart before my life is over, but I know that with His help I can do all things. Death is no selector of persons. It comes to young and old alike and it leaves scars on the hearts of those left behind. The scars will never fade away, but for those who hope in the Lord, they will heal. There will be a light shining brightly at the end of the rainbow. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23: 6)
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40: 31)