The Valley of Shadows
The old man sat quietly, a colorful afghan wrapped snugly about his knees. His wrinkled fingers stroked the softness and a sigh escaped his lips. One lone tear trickled down his withered cheek. Hearing the sound of a door closing, he quickly wiped the tear away and mustered enough energy to greet his daughter.
“Hi, Daddy!” Janette called out as she slipped through the door. “Where you at?”
“Sitting right here as always – where did you think I’d be at?”
Janette smiled at her father’s gruff response. Bill was a tender man, but liked to play the goat at times. Laying the groceries on the counter, Janette made her way into the living room.
“Are you a grump this morning?” Janette asked him as she kissed his cheek.
“No, I’m not a grump. I’m never a grump. I’m just hungry.”
“Well I’ve brought bread and eggs for your toast this morning.” Janette gently grasped his hand in hers. “Don’t you ever get tired of French toast?”
“Not your French toast I don’t.” He squeezed Janette’s hand and held it.
Something in his loving touch made Janette’s heart drop. In that moment, she knew her worst fears were being met. Bill’s face was more pasty than usual, his eyes tired and heavy. Kneeling down in front of him, she gave him a quizzical look.
Janette had been nursing her dad for months. The victim of a massive heart attack, Bill had never recovered completely. Each day, it seemed to her, Bill was losing his tenuous grip on life. His eyes, normally sparkling with mischief were sad and weary.
“What is it, Dad?”
Bill simply shook his head. She is the love of my life, he thought as he patted her hands, now resting on his knees. He looked into her eyes, filled with concern and compassion. How do I tell her that I’m tired? I’m tired of the struggle and I’m ready to go home. To Janette, he said nothing.
“Dad? Is the jig up?” Janette’s question threatened to choke her. She couldn’t imagine her dad giving up, but that’s what she feared as tears welled in her eyes.
He nodded in answer to her question.
“It can’t be, Dad,” Janette told him through trembling lips. “I can’t imagine what my life will be like without you here with me. You’re just having a bad morning.”
“No, Baby Girl. I’m not just having a bad morning. And without me? You’ll be fine. You’ve always been strong of spirit – you’ll be fine.”
Janette shook her head vigorously.
“Do you remember me telling you that life always has highs and lows? As Janette’s eyes met his, he continued. “I’ve always told you that every mountain has a valley, right? Well, we’ve been crossing one of those valleys. There is a shadow in this valley called Fear. And we’ve faced him bravely. Even though we’ve felt Fear reaching stiff fingers to hold us back, we’ve pushed on. Now we’re in the foothills of another mountain. But I can’t climb anymore, Sweet Girl. I can’t make it up the mountain. You’ll have to do it without me. Your time to rest has not yet come.”
“Janette.” Bill squeezed his daughter’s hands once more. “Listen to me. The Lord will be with you as He always is. He will not forsake you now or ever. He has been with us as we stumbled and has always calmed our fears. This will be no different.”
“I know all that. But I’m not ready for you to go. I don’t think I’ll make it.”
“You’ll make it,” her father assured her, “and you’ll climb that mountain as surefooted as a mountain goat. Our Lord will guide you, encourage you, give you comfort when you are tired or when you are afraid. He’s been doing these things all your life; He just let me play the part of the hero for awhile.”
Janette nodded her head and tenderly laid it on her father’s knee. His always gentle hand rested on her head. It was a long time before Janette realized that he was gone.
This last conversation Janette had with her father provides comfort as she forges ahead without him. She faces many challenges and has had many moments of despair. But her father’s words give her strength and always serve as a reminder that the Lord is with her.
She is no longer fearful, but instead, fearless.
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