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Gary's Faith Walk

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Gary's Faith Walk

In the land of the living

My father died in January. I’d flown from Spokane, arrived in Independence, Missouri, and spent last memorable hours with him holding his hand, talking to him, and trying to ease the discomfort of the final passage. 

At his funeral, Dad asked that a more contemporary version of Psalm 23 from The Living Bible be included.  You might like it, too. “Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need! He lets me rest in the meadow grass and leads me beside the quiet streams. He restores my failing health. He helps me do what honors him the most. Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close to me, guarding, guiding me all the way. You provide delicious food for me in the presence of my enemies. You have welcomed me as your guest; blessings overflow! Your goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me all of my life, and afterwards I will live with you forever in your home.” Dad liked this version. It came from the home Bible with all the births, deaths, major events scribbled in pencil by my grandmother.

A part of mature life is living with death. The days after my father died were filled with care for my mother, the wonderful presence of loving family and friends and, of course, the “business of death.” With Mom’s great organizing skill, we managed to move through interactions with Social Security, the VA, the bank, the insurance company, even the cable company, without too much distress.  And, hot fudge sundaes for mother and adult son did smooth the late afternoons following office calls and paperwork.

For once in my life, I have chosen to heed the advice of others. “Don’t rush the grieving,” wise persons all around have told me. And so, I am not. I’ve cancelled a trip, missed a few deadlines, taken some good walks, and sought to create the space for remembrance and mourning of the father I loved.

An author whom I know very, very well has suggested, “This journey through grief will take us... as long as it takes us.  There are no shortcuts through the valley, no timetables for the passage. At times, this “valley” seems more like a narrow canyon with formidable walls above which ravens circle in silence. We must navigate through dark shadows as we walk every twist and turn of a chilling canyon floor.  Sometimes the path seems to double back as we tread through the same emotions again and again in varying degrees of intensity.” 

And, the author concludes, “Eventually, we will come out on the far side of our grief. Towering canyon walls shorten into rounded hills that flatten further still.  And the valley floor widens out into a light-filled land of acceptance.”  And the journey continues “in the land of the living.”

My faith walk continues in the presence of the Divine. After my father’s death, my ongoing journey with the living has new meaning. I cherish the presence of loved ones, old friends and new. The smell of fresh coffee has never been sharper! I long for the hug of my grandson. I can’t wait to start building his first tree fort. On cold nights, the under-the-covers warmth of my extraordinary wife has never made me feel more secure.  And the human demands of the workplace, for now, just aren’t as important as they once were.  In short, the pace of life as I reflect on the man I called “Dad” has downshifted for a time by one gear... and that is just fine.


Image courtesy Freefoto.com


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Gary Payton Gary Payton is on a Faith Walk that takes him to Russia, Eastern Europe and Sandpoint, Idaho

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