Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Shadow of Death

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
Psalm 23:4 (KJV)

You don't have to be the one who is dying to walk through the valley of the shadow.
All you have to do is be close to the one who is dying.
Death's cold, dark shadow is cast over every one who feels the pain of having to say good-bye.
Its shadow is far-reaching and non-discriminating.

I watched as six strong pallbearers lifted the beautiful, lavender casket off the lift and into the back of the hearse.

I had stood her casket...for as long as I possibly could.
It hurt SO much to know that this would be the last kiss I would ever place on her forehead.
She was so cold.
She always hated to be cold.
I didn't think I could walk away.
But, they were waiting.
Everyone was waiting.

The lid had been closed.
This was it.
Time to pull yourself together, Cheryl.
Turn around, put one foot in front of the other, and walk away....for the very....last....time.

And now we would follow that long, black hearse the few blocks necessary to bring her earthly body to its final resting place.
Freshly dug, now waiting.

Oh, dear God, how would I get through this?

She dearly loved every, single one of the six men who carried her now lifeless, frail, little body.
I stood and watched them heart breaking....for them, too.

My brother, David, her only son.
The strong one.
The steady one.
The son who was always there for Mom, no matter what went wrong in her life.
The one who is always there for the four of us girls when our lives fall to pieces.
He was trying to hold up...for our sakes.
His quiet strength is always there.
She loved him dearly.
I do, too.

My Uncle Donnie, her youngest brother.
So faithful to come see her as often as he could.
If he couldn't come, he called her often.
She worried about him so.
His health hasn't been the greatest lately.
She was so concerned about his upcoming surgery and his wife, Fran's health problems.
She prayed for them so hard.

Her oldest grandson, Shawn.
Shawn!  So many memories we share!
Mom was expecting me, when my oldest sister, Sharon was expecting him.
When we were little, we went to school together, and it made me so proud to say I was Shawn's aunt.
No one believed us...since he was almost six weeks older than me.
We saw each other through some rough times growing up.
And even though we seldom get to see each other, the bond is still's still strong.

Her second oldest grandson, Brian, Shawn's brother.
She would always tell me when he called her.
She worried about him when she didn't hear from him for a while.
There he was, standing tall, carrying his part of the load.
He and I had cried together on the phone a few days before.
His heart was breaking.
"She's the only grandmother we've ever known, Cheryl."
"I know, Brian.  I'm so sorry."
We've always been close....shared sorrow drew our hearts even closer.

Her grand-daughter, Kim's husband, Matt.
She always loved him.
She would always tell me,
"Cheryl, Matt reminds me so much of Kevin.  He's such a nice person.  He's quiet and so easy going."
Kim and Matt drove many miles to see Mom.
They came to the hospital the very day she died.
She knew they were there.
She had talked to them and laughed with them.
When they left, they never dreamed it would be the very last time.
Now, there he walked, carrying her, one week later....

Her grand-daughter, Dawn's husband, Ron.
He was one of the first to volunteer to be a pallbearer.
Always there for all of us, willing to do whatever he's asked to do, never minding the task.
Once he made a long trip to work out details for Mom concerning a car.
She loved him dearly.
She never forgot what he did.
She was happy Dawn found such a good husband.
I am, too.

The shadow of death.
It is sad, dark, lonely, and foreboding.
It has cast its darkness over all of our lives.
Tsalmaveth crept quietly into her room, and as quickly as he came, he went.
When he left, he did not leave alone this time.
Along with him, he took our dear, loving mother, grandmother, sister, friend, precious dear one to so many who loved her.

Today, I thought I would not....could not....make it.
One more step.
The floodwaters of grief nearly drowned the very life inside of me.

My dear sister, Debbie, what would I do without her right now?
She told me a verse God gave her the other see her through.
It is found in Isaiah 43:1-3.
"Fear not:  for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.  When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee:  when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour..."

We are each every, single memory...that we can recall about Mom.
Her heart is breaking, just as much as mine...along with our other three siblings, David, Sharon, and Sandi.
We are all staying help each other through.
They all mean the world to me.

Mom was the glue that held all of us together.
Some of us talked to each other more often than others.
But, Mom kept in close touch with all five of us.

Mom would call me after she had heard any news about any of her other four children.
Or any of her ten grandchildren....or her 26 great-grandchildren...or her 10 great, great-grandchildren.
She would tell me the latest news and what was going on with different ones she heard from.
And she would share my little family's news with the others.
We all kept together that way.....through our dear, loving Mother...whose heart was overflowing with love, compassion, and concern for each and every one of us.

I get up in the morning now, and I think, maybe, just maybe, today will be a better day.
I pray and begin to call out to my dear, precious Heavenly Father, Whose love has no end.
Who will forsake me never.

Soon, my thoughts turn to making my every morning phone call.

Either she would call me, or if I hadn't heard from her by a certain time, I was on the phone calling her.

"Did you have a good night last night, Mom?"

"Not too good, honey.  I hurt through the night.  I got up and sat on the side of the bed for a while.
Then I never could go back to sleep.
Did you have a good night?
How's Little Man?
How's Kevin?  Is he feeling better?
What time did he get home from work last night?
Did he make it okay?
Are you feeling okay?"

She cared.
She cared so much.

I have never known a more caring, loving, self-sacrificing, selfless person....never.
Nor do I think I ever will.
I don't think a person like that this, mortal life.

I thought I knew how valuable she was.
I really, truly thought I knew how much it would hurt to lose her.
I have dreaded this for as far back as I can remember.

I knew she was 84.
I knew she couldn't live forever.
I knew she was precious.
 I knew there was no other love like hers.
I knew every phone call could be our last.
I knew every visit might be the final one.

But, dear Lord, I underestimated every, single detail and aspect....of this dreaded pain.
I just never knew....that the shadow of death, this horrible, black shadow that has been cast over our lives, could be this hard to walk through.

Dear precious Shepherd, my dear Jesus, send your rod and your comfort....each one of our hurting, grieving hearts.

There is no other Who can reach....the deepest recesses of our pain.

Every bit of our in You....alone.
We need you now, Lord, more than ever.


  1. Cheryl, I am sorry for your loss. But the gift of knowing that your Mother is with the Lord is wonderful!
    I found your blog by searching the word "tsalmaveth" that I had looked up in The Blue Letter Bible. (Of course, I had to search through a lot of demonic entries of songs, art, and the like.)But I kept searching for a sighting because my sister told me about seeing tsalmaveth, not just once, but on several occasions. She was a Hospice nurse, and she has since past away. Now that I am getting older and ready to meet my Maker, I long for the peace that God promises in our new bodies!!

    1. Hello,

      It was so interesting to hear that someone else has had an experience meeting Tsalmaveth! I would love to hear more about this, if you happen to visit this blog again. If you are interested in communicating, my email address is: Thanks so much for visiting and for your kind comments!

      Blessings to you,