Shadows of the Valley
Based on a true story
Claudia tugged her husband, Pedro, over to the couch and snuggled up against him as he put his arm around her shoulder.
“Well this is a treat, no?” Pedro said with a smile. “Being able to sit with my own wife on a Saturday afternoon. This sure doesn’t happen often!”
Claudia sighed deeply, “It’s is nice having you home so early. Did your boss mind you taking the day off?”
“No,” Pedro said “When I told him that you really needed me he said it was fine. I just need to make up the lost hours next week. What was it you needed me for?”
Claudia chewed her lip in momentary nervousness before making up her mind. Scooting away from her husband she sat up straight and folded her hands in her lap with a determined mind. She had agonized all week over how to tell her husband about her dramatic news. When she had summoned up the courage to finally tell him, she called him at work asking him to come home right away. She knew that if she didn’t tell him now she might never be able to do so.
“Well,” Claudia began in a shaky voice, “I don’t think I can tell you straight out, so instead I want to tell you a story.”
“Ok,” Pedro agreed amiably with a smile. “Anything to be near my beautiful wife.”
Claudia felt her face heat as it always did when he complemented her. Eyes staring forward, hands clenched in her lap, Claudia began her story…
“There once was a girl who loved her mother very much. They had a wonderful life together and everything seemed perfect in her world until something happened….
Shivering in the afternoon heat the daughter tuned out the miserable funeral service as best she could. It was over. The long battle against cancer, the endless nights watching over her mother… it was all over.
The men that were hired to be mourners for the funeral sang pitiful songs of death and sadness. The throng of people that had turned out for her mother’s funeral allowed themselves to be carried away by their emotions and the morbid music.
She watched, as though detached, while aunts, uncles and cousins screamed hysterically, and women fainted from the heat and the overpowering emotions of the finality of death.
The priest stood by the casket and droned on about her mother’s good life and how if all present prayed for her she might make it out of purgatory and into the glorious streets of Heaven. Unlike those around her, the daughter couldn’t talk, couldn’t cry, couldn’t feel. Everything seemed to be a dream, a nightmare that she would soon wake out of. To escape from the reality of the moment, she remembered…
Five excruciating months she fought along side her mother to beat cancer and restore their life to what it used to be. But daily, she literally saw the sickness take over her mother’s body.
The last day before her mother died it had seemed that she was recuperating. She had said she was hungry and asked for some food. So the daughter prepared food for her, and the mother ate it all in a jovial mood. But it was not to last. Hours later the daughter went in to check on her mother only to find her asleep, never to wake again…
Broken out of her reverie by a rough hand on her arm, the daughter turned and looked into the face of her tear-streaked aunt.
“Go now,” her aunt ordered roughly. “You must put the first handful dirt on your mother casket so they can proceed with the burial.”
Moving forward as if in a trance the daughter stood next to the deep hole that held her mother’s body cocooned in the wooden casket. She reached down and picked up a handful of dirt. Letting it flow slowly through her fingers she memorized the sound of the dirt hitting her mother’s casket. Nothing had ever sounded so terrible and bleak to her before.
She looked at the casket, then turned and stared with clouded eyes at the musicians still chanting their dreadful songs. Her family and friends continued to wail and shriek hopeless prayers to the Virgin Mary. Yet she felt nothing. No emotions pierced the numbness that was spreading thickly across her heart.
Soon, the afternoon heat, the crowded mob of people, and her physical weakness allowed her a brief relief from her pain. Hurling into darkness, she fainted and fell hard on the ground. Even though surrounded by family, no one reached out to prevent her fall.
With her mother gone, the girl’s life changed dramatically. Forced to seek work, she had no desire to live and simply trudged from one day to the next. Not long after the funeral, her family assaulted her with words of anger and grief. Every last one of them accused her of killing her mother. They said that she had grown tired of caring for her mother so she had purposefully fed her something that would kill her quickly.
Dumbfounded, this daughter thought that surely they were joking. How could they accuse her of something so dreadful when she had loved her mother so dearly? She had quit school to be with her mother, she had laid aside her dreams and life to be by her mother’s side! But she soon realized that they were serious in their accusations of her and they saw no reason for withholding their anger any longer.
After being emotionally wounded numerous times she decided to get away. No matter that they were her flesh and blood; she no longer considered them family. And they wished she was dead.
Soon the only relief the daughter found from the darkness in her heart was the oblivion that she obtained from parties and drinking. Her life continued in this downward spiral, until, at one of these parties this girl decided that she had enough. She decided that once the party was over she would find some way to end her miserable life her on this earth. That is, until she met him.
He was everything she had ever dreamed of, and as they talked that night, they both fell in love. On a whim, they decided to get married. His love for her helped her to regain some semblance of control in her life and to quit drinking. Now he was her reason for living. But not matter how much he loved her, fear, guilt, and despair still held her heart captive.
By now Claudia was back in her husband’s arms as sobs racked her body. Pedro stroked her hair soothingly and held her tight. He knew that the girl in the story was his wife and he well remembered the early years of their marriage when she was a mess. He remembered the countless nights when she would awake from a dream screaming and kicking. So deep was her hurt and pain that it would haunt her eyes and turn her skin a grayish hue.
Nestled in his arms Claudia continued talking in whispered tones…
When they had a baby, this woman ceased living for herself. The only reason she woke up in the morning was because of her husband and their precious baby whom they named Maria. Other than that, she had no desire to live. There seemed to be a palpable darkness that shrouded her life out of which she could find no freedom.
One morning, she took her daughter, now four years old, to the market as was her custom. As they were walking home, Maria spotted a park and begged for her mom to stop a while so she could play. Glad to sit for a while, her mother agreed. As she watched Maria play, a woman came up to her and asked to sit by her on the bench. They began conversing about everyday subjects.
After some small talk, the stranger turned and said,“I see in your face sadness and despair and I think I have something that could help you. But first, I have only one question. If you were to die today, would you know for sure that you were going to Heaven?”
The woman stared vacantly past the lady on the bench before turning lifeless eyes on her and saying miserably, “No.”
One hour later the same woman that had before been plagued with the darkness of evil was now bathed in fresh, releasing light. Her heart had come to know the God of this world and He had saved her from the pits of misery. Her face was transformed and her heart felt as light as the clouds.
She has so many questions for her new-found friend as she tried to grasp the unbelievable love that God had for her! She was free, finally free. No longer did she feel guilt and gloom. She no longer wished for death. She no longer longed for an escape from life by drinking or by going to parties. Her life had been changed.
Gazing into her husband’s eyes Claudia said in a hoarse voice, “I’ve been saved, Pedro. God loves me and He saved me. And I want you to know the same peace and joy that I now have in my heart.”
Pedro blinked rapidly to dispel the tears gathering in his eyes. Gazing at their intertwined hands he was silent for a moment before whispering, “Will you show me how?”
Joyfully, Claudia nodded and tears began streaming down her face.
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Interesting storytelling technique. This was very well done, and extremely compelling.
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