"Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me."
I never had a true concept of what the "darkest valley" really was until April 1, 2012. In the very early morning hours I got a phone call that shook my very foundation. My 29 year old brother, Ashley, had died in a cave diving accident. He had been diving with some of his buddies at Weeki Wachee Springs, in Florida, on March 31st and had an embolism under water that took his life. My beautiful brother was gone, and our family was shattered.
I spoke to my parents briefly and hung up the phone trying to make sense of something that made no sense at all. So many emotions flooded my heart and my mind, questions I would never get answers to, and pain so deep I could barely breathe. I didn't know who to call, what to say, how to handle - I was at a loss. Edwin held me as I cried, we cried together. I called my sister, we cried some more. I called a family friend, a few people from church, and cried some more. My dearest friend was on her way home from India and I couldn't reach her, that made me cry some more.
It was a Sunday and Edwin had to be at service in a few hours - I tried to sleep but I just cried. It was April 1st, Liam (our youngest) very first birthday - and I didn't, couldn't even begin to think of celebrating. I thought how in just a month Ashley would have been 30, and now we wouldn't be celebrating that. I cried some more. At some point the sun came up and morning came, but in my mind I didn't understand why the sun would even rise - not today. Edwin left for church, and we decided not to tell the kids until he came home - just too hard for me to deal with their loss and mine by myself.
Liam cuddled with me in bed as my tears spilled on his little head. The little guy never even got to meet his uncle Ashley. A thousand regrets went through my mind, a million wishes I will never have. The other two awoke, surprised we weren't going to church but happy to have the morning free. They could see I was upset, and asked - I told them I was "OK" and we'd talk about it when dad got home. It was the longest 4 hours. I was thankful for the distraction of TV for the kids and sleepy baby. The whole world seemed so far away, alone is almost not enough of a word to describe the feeling - it was the deepest, darkest valley.
The next week was chaos, and unbelievably painful. We drove to Florida, where my parents, grandparents, and sister and her family were headed as well. I watched my parents age right before my eyes. My grandparents, who were the strongest people I know, suddenly became frail. I saw my aunts, cousins, and family friends in a place of sadness I had never seen. I told my sister I loved her a thousand times, wishing I could say it a thousand more. I held onto scripture like never before, gripping so tight my hands hurt. Somehow we made it through a viewing, funeral, an obituary,his friends and our family and those worlds colliding, and an awful long drive back to Virginia (with sick kids).
I was spent, lost, hurting, exhausted, and in pain. My world flipped over, and what seemed so big and important, didn't matter anymore. I can only describe my pain like a really bad burn - that burned deep, stung, and radiated heat. The kind of pain that is so bad that it's consuming. In the beginning I functioned because I had to, my kids needed me to, Edwin needed me to - but I did it with almost a robotic feel - overwhelmed with so much hurt and pain. Food didn't taste good, TV seemed worthless, life was different - because it was different.
When you are in a deep, dark valley - your perspective changes. Sunlight hurts your eyes, darkness becomes your friend. Not darkness like evil, more like emptiness - a nothingness. In the dark no one sees you crying, in the dark you can scream and no one can hear, in the deep, dark you don't have to deal with the rest of the world's problems - because you can't. Being in a deep, dark valley means you have face some deep, dark things - but that may not be all bad. Sometimes we need to stop, and change focus - and see what really is important. In a deep, dark valley it becomes very quiet, and you can listen - to your heart, and to God's heart too.
I'm still walking through this valley, but I am not afraid because I know HE is close beside me.