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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Valley (08/10/06)

TITLE: When Shadows Aren't Enough
By Betsy Markman


Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…

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.

For months.

Hands forget how they once played.
Now they flap before a stranger’s eyes
No longer willing to meet my own.

Sleep mocks me.
Hope perishes.
Sanity flees.
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.
No God
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
At Him.

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.

Scripture reference
Ps. 23:4 (KJV)

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This article has been read 1215 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Edy T Johnson 08/17/06
I doubt I have ever read words put together the way you have done to express such devastation. Every line spells out anguish without relief. Thank God you still have enough resources left to feel rage. And, at the end, even a glimmer of hope. You have a gift for powerful writing.
Virginia Gorg08/17/06
You wove a great message into these words of despair, then hope. Nice job and a good read. thank you.
Sharlyn Guthrie08/18/06
"I do not hate life or the One who is Life but only the shadow that hides Him from me..." Your portrayal of the valley is so raw and painful, yet hopeful in the end. You couldn't have addressed the theme more appropriately. Great job!
Gary Sims08/19/06
You did a great job with a very difficult topic. All too often we don't understand the hopelessness that comes with despair. In the end, you provided a little sense of hope - of life beyond the valley of despair. As a hopefilled person I would have wanted to see a little more hope... a flower, the sun. Something to draw the person through the valley.
Sandra Petersen 08/21/06
This is powerful! But I wasn't sure if Philip was lost in actual death or the seeming 'death' of autism or something similar. I have experienced the first but not the last.

The sorrow and anguish, the final clutching at hope,were all worded so eloquently that I was reminded of our own loss and the emotions connected to it. In the end, I just want to say thank you for expressing it so clearly.
Evan Peck08/21/06
Awesome. Very very good. I have been toying around lately with this style of writing. There is a tremendous amount of intentionality in it. I think you hit it head on.
david grant08/22/06
This is so raw it's absolutely painful to read. So often we want to paint a silver lining on the cloud when we don't see one. Thanks for the honesty.

I agree with the prev. comment this work needs a little work, and then it would be marvelous.
Joanne Sher 08/22/06
So very, VERY vivid and heartwrenching. Agree with above comments too - but this just grabbed at my gut and pulled! Wow!
Brenda Craig08/22/06
What can I say? Such pain, such honesty. You translated your emotions, your pain and left my senses reeling. Powerful!!
Corinne Smelker 08/22/06
One word: POWERFUL!!

Your every word evokes a response from the reader and you made me go back and read this several times.

I would not be surprised to see you in the EC, and on your way to Master's soon.
Shari Armstrong 08/23/06
Powerfully written - wow.
Julia May08/23/06
This has to be a winner. I have never read such raw emotion before that took my breath and put me right there in it. I think you must be living it to be able to express your pain so well. In Christ's Love,

Loren T. Lowery04/07/08
Your work goes beyond words to the dimensions of the soul, not totally understood but by the familiar sense of beauty God has graced into our hearts. For your kind remarks left on my "Golden Thread" all I can say in return is touché. Your work is remarkable.
Beth LaBuff 04/25/08
Wow! This is amazing... and SO sad. Is this true? My heart breaks. Your writing is beautiful. (your recent poems on my entries a great! -- you are very talented)
Catrina Bradley 08/22/08
I am left in the grip of your emotions. So much of your heart's very blood is spilled into this poem. I only wish I could voice how your words tore into me.