Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Valley (08/10/06)
TITLE: When Shadows Aren't Enough
By Betsy Markman
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My son is lost in that valley.
He died. He lives.
Two years old.
Tearing into Christmas presents
Voicing his thoughts with newly-learned words.
Adorable, squeezable, lovable, loved.
Words give way to screaming.
Endless, throat-tearing screaming.
Little body stiff in my arms.
Twelve, fourteen, eighteen hours each day
His shrieks rake my ears, shred my soul
Screaming, and screaming, and screaming.
Hands forget how they once played.
Now they flap before a stranger’s eyes
No longer willing to meet my own.
Sleep mocks me.
Nothing exists but screaming, and screaming, and screaming
And three little faces who look to me
To give them life
While I am dying.
I reel in this valley of death that is not death.
Through? There is no “through.”
I sink to my knees
But find no comfort there.
And no strength to rise again.
The air in this valley
Fills lungs with dust
Parches them with dread
Not the fear that death will come
But that it will not.
“If You have any compassion at all
Be done with shadows which bring no relief!
Let this be simply the valley of death.
End it all. Please just end it all.”
Our breaths keep coming.
His rip the air with cries of torment.
“I hate You, God. I hate You.”
Slowly the horror abates
But endless months in the shadow of death
Have transformed me into a shadow of life.
I am hollow.
Nothing remains of me.
I am without form, void, in darkness.
The Spirit hovers
He has little to work with.
The fragments He finds are seething with rage
He sings, and I weep.
I don’t want to, but I do.
He praises, and I feel it.
Sometimes I can even join in, feebly
Pushing the words out past thick clouds of fury.
I am so glad I still can.
Because if He is life
Then a shadow of life is not enough
Not in a place such as this.
I stagger to my feet
And risk a few unsteady steps.
For I do not hate life
Or the One who is Life
But only the shadow that hides Him from me
Here in this valley.
Ps. 23:4 (KJV)
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