The Valley of the Shadow of Death

I have a notoriously terrible sense of direction, so it makes sense that I feel quite lost.

Long before smart phones and portable navigational devices, my father used to give me turn-by-turn directions written out on a piece of paper with his draftsman neat lettering to aid me safely get to my destination. Freeway lane to selection was also noted in order to be in the correct place to exit or merge. The Houston freeway system does not ascribe to the notion of right lane exit theory. Random left lane exits pop up to create surprise or alarm on any given road trip. Surely my father’s mind must have boggled to even have to do this for me his daughter. Surely genetically I should have been predisposed to have an amazing sense of direction like him. Alas an internal sense of north, south, east and west and map reading skills was not my inheritance.

Does God get boggled by this child of his being disoriented by His plan for my father and myself?

Currently I am lost off center wondering what will happen next on this grief journey. It has felt like the travel agent has not provided me directions or even an estimated time of arrival. I am in and out of the waiting room as my father lies dying in a room in a facility that has cared for him in recent years. He was the victim of both Parkinson’s disease and Parkinson’s Dementia. A particularly vicious attack on one’s brain and central nervous system featuring delusions and even vivid hallucinations that render the recipient in need of round the clock secure care. I will be forever grateful that I managed to find a great team who has done just that. They have linked arms even in the midst of a world pandemic and cared very well for my father. The strict and predictable schedule did wonders to relieve my father’s anxiety as he battled a time delusion that caused him to believe that someone had changed the clocks over and over. I imagine it must have perhaps felt to him like changing time zones over and over or endless daylight savings’ time changes.  

Today as I continue the on again off again vigil by my father’s bed, I feel so disoriented. I am indeed walking in the valley of the shadow of death. The words of Psalm 23 come to my mind. God knew how chaotic walking through dying would feel to a people he created for eternity. He inspired David to write these words as a set of directions for me to read. It’s like my father painstakingly writing out the turn by turn directions for me almost forty years ago all over again. God has issued me a sort of turn by turn directives contained in Psalm 23.

The psalm begins by establishing who will be leading me and my father in this expedition thru the valley, Jesus the Good Shepherd. According to the second verse we will begin the journey with rest. This certainly doesn’t feel very efficient. However, truly God knows about the exhaustion of a grief journey. God also gives direction regarding my emotions as He commands me to set aside fear and take comfort in seeing Jesus’ rod and staff, symbols of protection and guidance. God even promises to prepare snacks for the journey and anoint my head with oil. This was actually a way that shepherds protected their sheep from being tormented by insects. God promises to provide goodness and love for my entire life because of who He is not based on what I have done. He has also promised to do this for my father. My Dad’s work on this earth is done but somehow as we wait, God is still at work there. Finally, God assures me that I will live in His house forever. This will be my father’s residence very soon and eventually my own. It is a snapshot of the now and not yet.

My father passed away in his sleep on Sunday, September 20th about two weeks after I wrote this. I am grateful that the Good Shepherd called him into the heavenly flock during his nightly watch.

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