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At Easter time, a son waits in the valley of death’s shadow

Pastor Greg
On Religion

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”

Jews and Christians alike find comfort in the ancient words of Israel’s shepherd-king. In the 23rd Psalm, David reflects on how the Almighty protected him during times in his life when he was forced to journey through the valley of the shadow of death — times that included facing a giant named Goliath and running from a bloodthirsty evil king named Saul. In such times of despair, David, who had been a shepherd in his youth, discovered the shepherd-like qualities of his creator.

As Easter approaches, I am celebrating on March 23, the Christian’s hope of life beyond the grave more than normal. In recent weeks I have conducted several funerals. But what has been even more difficult is the journey I am taking through death valley with my own family.

There is nothing quite as stressful as watching one of your parents shuffle through the valley of the shadow of death. I know. I am living through that right now. My 81-year-old father, a retired pastor in Wenatchee, is slowly surrendering to the claim that bone cancer has on his body.

Although I have been a shepherd for many in my flock who have faced similar situations, it’s different this time. I need someone to shepherd me. My stomach is knotted up. Anxiety surprises me at unexpected times. I see the panic in my mother’s face as she gradually comes to terms with the fact that my dad will be dying soon. Seeing her face causes me inner turmoil. I love my parents so much.

The other day as I drove the three hours to visit him in my boyhood home, I stood over his bed while he was sleeping. I found peace in the midst of my emotional storm as I observed him resting. The pain that he has fought was temporarily not an issue for the moment.

I took my pen and a pad of paper and proceeded to write...

I stand beside your bedside, weeping

comforted to see you sleeping.

While awake you’re victimized by pain that saps your peace.

I can’t help thinking as I stand here

how you rescued me from danger

when my nightmares bucked me off and left me all alone.

I think about when you were standing

by my bed with bars of candy.

I was only six or seven, home from school and sick.

But now it’s my turn to be standing

at your bed. It’s not demanding.

It’s a privilege. Dad, I love you more than you could know.

I stand beside your bedside, weeping

comforted to see you sleeping.

I am asking God to give you dreams of Heaven’s joys.

As I read and re-read what I had written, the tears flowed, but my anxiety ceased. I realized that my loving Heavenly Father will care for my earthly father right up to the end — and beyond. I was comforted by the knowledge that the same Good Shepherd who guided a young shepherd through the valley of the shadow of death when he faced his giant will guide both my dad and me through the dark cold shadows of coming days.

Pastor Greg Asimakoupoulos is the head of the Mercer Island Covenant Church and a regular contributor to the Reporter.

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