The Valley…The Shadow



Psalm 23

It has been almost a year since I last contributed to this project.  For the most part, I simply haven’t had the emotional energy.  Caring for my wife in her declining health was sapping all strength.  Others would try to encourage me, assuring me it would help process what I was going through, but I did not want to process.  I simply needed to survive and dedicate every ounce of emotional resource to her.  We had been walking through the valley, in the shadow.

Death casts a long shadow. Each day, every day, it was there with us.  As the tumors in her lungs continued to spread and grow, and her stamina continued to wane, Death’s shadow grew.  We weren’t afraid, not really.  As believers we knew the final outcome would be victory, but it was still a valley, and there was still that shadow.   I was continually reminded of Paul’s observation, “We carry about in our bodies the death of Christ.”

In the valley and in the shadow, there were moments of respite. The Psalmist said God prepares a table in the presence of the enemy, and that he did.  For over a year, my wife’s school and church friends brought food, lots and lots of food.  Other than my intentional routine of Saturday breakfast, we cooked very little.  Not only was there food, but our cup ran over.  In all, friends contributed somewhere around $20,000 toward her medical care. Others came and cleaned our house.  Still others came to baby-sit when she became too weak to care for our grandchildren, as our daughters went to work. Church and school friends pitched in to help plan and carry out our son’s wedding rehearsal dinner. Other friends came to simply sit and visit, as this cheered and encouraged her. All this took place in the valley, in the shadow.

I have traveled this road over forty years ago, when my father died. Death comes to the parsonage, as it does every other home and family.  There is no distinction.  The familiarity of the road gave some comfort…no, not comfort…just familiarity.  I knew the destination.

Two weeks ago, the valley grew deeper and the shadow grew darker.  Her breath was shortened, labored, and her strength was failing.  She spent most of her last few days in the bed or the recliner.  Her thoughts were jumbled, and her emotions were frayed and raw.  Yet she enjoyed what there was left of life, a late-night (early morning) viewing of Camelot, as she sang each and every song from memory. She enjoyed a poached egg breakfast the next morning on the back porch, soaking in the cool breeze after a rain, and commented on the green grass and the tall corn just beyond the back fence.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” We are never told how many days we have, but each day she would end by recounting one thing that happened and say, “Today was another perfect day.”

“I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” That night, after enjoying our movie and breakfast, she sat in the recliner and talked to the kids. She quipped, “Have I died and gone to heaven?”  Twelve hours later, she did.  After going to the emergency room for relief of a maddening headache and inability to breathe well, the doctor agreed to admit her to a hospice room.  A powerful cocktail of various drugs offered her the sleep that had eluded her for weeks.  She slept for six hours, as each breath was more labored and further from the last.  As I returned from a quick shower and bowl of cereal, I walked back into the room and mustered a cheery, “Hello!”  She took one more breath and was gone.

In all this, He walked with us. There were green pastures and still waters before the end, the trips to Europe, Niagra Falls, The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. We lacked nothing. He restored us time and again.  Now, the valley is behind us and the shadow is gone. The future is a big, blank canvass, a new road, waiting to see where he leads next.

Published in: on June 13, 2017 at 12:54 pm  Comments (9)  

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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Beautiful story

  2. Wes, I had no idea Kimberly was ill. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    Bryan and Joann Bullard

  3. From the bottom of my heart and soul I pray for peace and rest for your family. Also thanking the Lord for sustaining your steps during this hard journey and praising Him for what’s ahead! Live you guys always!
    Michael “Missy” Hackney May

  4. From the bottom of my heart and soul I pray for peace and rest for your family. Also thanking the Lord for sustaining your steps during this hard journey and praising Him for what’s ahead! Love you guys always!
    Michael “Missy” Hackney May

  5. Wes, this is beautiful! It could have been difficult to write; however, I feel as if it was cathartic! We loved Kimberly so much and we could see Christ in her always. But we never saw the grief of those of you who were closest to her. I’m glad you shared a glimpse of your feelings in this account of the “final” days! I know Kimberly would be proud of how well you expressed it. Our thoughts & prayers are with you. I pray that God will sustain you and give you peace & comfort through the days ahead! Love and blessings to you and yours! Thanks for sharing this with us! ~~Tommye & Gene

  6. Wes,

    I am the daughter of Roy Heflin Teague, Shirley’s cousin. Kimberly and my siblings played together as children. We were the family members she , Uncle Dink , Aunt Lena, and Christy were driving home from visiting, when they had the accident that took Aunt Lena.

    Kimberly was such a sweet , kind person always. I am so thankful she had a loving partner to travel the shadows with and into the valley. Thank you for sharing your beautiful love story.

    God Bless,

    Jennifer Teague

    • Thank you, Jennifer. As a side note, my youngest grandaughter is named Anna lena, after Shirley Ann and Lena Bishop.

  7. Raw, honest, a heartbreaking tribute and I’m in tears for you and your family over the loss of one of my dearest hometown friends. Thank you so much for facing your own pain to give us a glimpse of her final days, Wes. I just can’t believe she’s gone. ~Natalie

  8. Well written, thank you for sharing. I can’t believe she is gone. I am happy for the memories of days gone by. You have been and are in my prayers. Melissa

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