After my father’s death in August of 2018, I had the opportunity to return to Gettysburg National Military Park to finish off my residency. It turned out that I would be there in late October and early November. Usually, around this time in Pennsylvania, the leaves have already turned and fallen but the trees were still leafed out and changing their colors when I got there due to it being very mild autumn.
I am a lover of trees. I like to watch them in a different light and see how they change all year long. I like everything from the textured bark to the sound they make when wind passes through their limbs and leaves. It’s always fascinated me that the Bible begins with a tree and ends with a tree and in the middle is this Tree of Calvary. I have always felt that God loves trees too.
One of my favorite spots in the entire Park was the Soldier’s National Cemetery. That may sound gloomy to you but the trees in this part of the Park are old, big, and beautiful. The morning of my Dad’s stroke I was in the Cemetery looking at the first light as it hit some of those trees. Little did I that many miles away in Dallas my Dad was about to pass through the door into the most beautiful place anyone of us could ever imagine. Suffice to say that this spot was very special to me as it held grief and beauty as it seemed to hold me.
On my 2nd trip, I thought about how this space, this landscape held such death. There were over 50,000 casualties at Gettysburg making it the largest battle ever fought in the Western Hemisphere. A war raged against each other became our most brutal. Yet, I found myself weeping as I was comforted by the colors and sounds of life there in this cemetery. I think as Christians we struggle sometimes to just go through the valley. We want to walk around it, over it, or skip it altogether. But David says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me.” (Psalm 23).
I painted “Bleed No More” as a tribute to those Union soldiers that died to preserve our United States (as one nation, free for all people). I thought about how horrific it must have been to fight in those battles amidst the sights and sounds of so many young men dying and dead. I chose to paint the light when it bends in the evening. It cast a golden glow over everything as if it was made new for just a few moments. It’s a glimpse of the “not yet”; the glory that will be revealed to us when we pass through the valley. It is what my Dad is seeing fully now in the presence of Jesus.
It’s been 6 months since his passing. We still miss him but I live in hopeful tears as I remain in this world of pain, suffering, and fears. I live in the truth that time doesn’t heal all wounds, God does. He will make all things new again. My grief will be changed into a song of gladness. Not a gladness of, “It’s ok. Never mind all that…” But a gladness that is tinged by the pain, that knows how bright the light can be because I have been in darkness. Our song will be one of heart healing. May we all give each other the encouragement to push through the valley. I may not see the trees but I hear the wind in their leaves.