If you go down into the valley of the shadow of death today, there won’t be a big surprise. No gad about, and no play or shout. Perhaps quite a bit of sorrow and weeping, but no real surprise: death doesn’t change, even if doing death does. It still leaves a void; an empty chair, an unread newspaper, unopened aftershave, and untold secrets. There’s no tumbler of whisky, no moaning, no smile, no soft and low breathing. Just stillness.
God knows what’s on the other side: you can’t cross the river until the twilight. You might see reflections of imaginings, but it’s all a bit blurred in the grey and impatient cold. The hoping and dreading have become remembering and forgetting, and a few sensitive words of grief.
The plain is still and dull; the pain is numb, like stone. There’s a sea of faded leaves on the ground, all red and gold and scattered in the wind. And the rain sweeps in waves, mingling with memories, sealing the nearness, calming the despair. But the deadness heaves deep in the silence of eternal sleep. There is simply no presence now.
All the philosophy in the world does not equal a Psalm of David. Through the valley lies a balm: watching and caring in green pastures; preserving and healing beside the still waters. But here it is unbearably dark: there is no sunlight or half-light; just a hollow moon casting dim shadows over a few weeds.
Thank God this isn’t the destination or dwelling place: we are just passing through a myriad of mortal mysteries. No shadows of the night can trample on our days of wonder and love, for the dews of peace are jewels of paradise, of release, of liberty. Death is nothing at all on the mountain top, where the shepherd lives in his shelter, just past the purple tree. His voice is comforting, like the rod and staff of guidance and security.
To die, to sleep, no more. The worldy task is done. It is time to go home. A table is prepared; a head anointed; a whisky tumbler overflows. But here are the ashes; here lies the dust of all that living. What dreams may come.