into the valley of death

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil;
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff,
they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4


(Lady Butler, 1881)

The other evening, as I once again attempted to fall asleep…
sleep which is maddeningly elusive…

…For my mind wanders all around….

“was that my phone ringing?’
“how much more can his body take?”
“will tonight be the night?”
“what was that the nurse said…”
“should I just stay up there?”

As now there is the talk of moving Gloria…
as her own dysfunctional family wrestles on that…
attempting to pull us into the web….

On and on it plays throughout the night,
all the while I yearn for sleep…

The thought of an old black book with brittled yellow pages
surfaced to the forefront of my consciousness…as words from a different time
began to recite themselves in my head…
I was perplexed…
How in the world, why in the world, did this image from the past come to mind
in the midsts of all that is happening currently now in this most sorrowful present….

One of the first poems I ever memorized as a little girl was Tennyson’s
Charge of the Light Brigade.

When I was around 8 or so, I proudly “owned” two books which had belonged to my grandfather…
of which I suspect were his in college.
The copyright on one of the books is 1903.
It is a collection of poems by Alfred, Lord Tennyson edited by Henry Van Dyke.

As a young American girl, I have no idea why someone like Tennyson and his
ballad of battle would call my name… but call both author and poem did.

While all these many years later, there in the restlessness of a long dark night,
the British forces once again came charging forward from deep within my memories.

Tennyson was the poet Laureate of the United Kingdom and Ireland during the long
reign of Queen Victoria.
He was also one of the greatest poets of Western Civilization.

It was shortly following a botched assault by Brisitsh forces in 1854, during the
Crimean War, that Tennyson penned his now famous ballad.

The poem is a heart’s response to a devastating battle and of the heavy loss of life
following the miscommunication which called the wrong division into a
now legendary near massacre.

The 4th and 13th Dragoon, the 17th Lancers and the 8th and 11th Hussars
were light calvary divisions…the Heavy Brigade consisted of the 4th Royal Irish
Dragoon Guards, the 5th Dragoon Guards, the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons and the Scots Greys…
each of whom were more equipped and who were more accustomed to seeing the fiercest of conflicts.

According to Wikipedia,
The Light Brigade, as the name suggests, were the British light cavalry force.
It mounted light, fast horses which were unarmoured.
The men were armed with lances and sabres.
Optimized for maximum mobility and speed, they were intended for reconnaissance and skirmishing.
They were also ideal for cutting down infantry and artillery units as they attempted to retreat.

Therefore the Light Brigade was not equipped nor prepared to face the onslaught of
20 opposing Russian battalions or the 50 artillery pieces ready to level them in mid attack.

It was an epic tragedy for British forces as well as British morale back home.

Leading Tennyson to pen a lasting tribute not to mere loss and misfortune but rather to gallantry…
heroic courage demonstrated in the face of insurmountable odds.

For despite the wrong orders…the Brigade followed the orders none the less…
Orders followed by men who questioned not whether there had been a mistake in calling
them to battle…but rather… that in the end, when all was said and done…they knew that
it was their’s not to question why… but rather it was theirs to do and die…

And so now as I watch my dad muster on as it were,
under the now seemingly insurmountable odds of death…
he rides on…

For my dad has not been a man known for being strong nor bold…
but rather…
he has been both deferring and lazy…

Yet more importantly however… he has always known for being overtly kind and generous…

So now…throughout this arduous and painful journey,
this devastatingly life ending ordeal…
my dad has not lamented nor complained nor even questioned why…
but rather he has seen that this battle has been his to endure as he makes his way
through this valley of death…
as I continue to marvel at the choice of charge he has now made.

The Charge Of The Light Brigade
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Memorializing Events in the Battle of Balaclava, October 25, 1854
Written 1854

Half a league half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred:
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d ?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d & thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack & Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke,
Shatter’d & sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse & hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder’d.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

(Note: This poem, including punctuation, is reproduced from a scan of the poem written out by
Tennyson in his own hand later, in 1864.
The scan was made available online by the University of Virginia.)

17 comments on “into the valley of death

  1. atimetoshare.me says:

    Prayers for you and your family as you endure this last battle of your dad’s. God has already given him the victory.

  2. Prayers for you, and may you be wrapped in the Lord’s peace and comfort.

    I’m often left wondering who the real soldiers are, the nurses or the patients? Sometimes I have felt like a bit of collateral damage myself, a soldier in a war I cannot win. In those times I have often thought of the women at the foot of the cross. Why where they there, what was it about their presence that was so important? It’s a place of honor, it’s valuable calling, our tears are so precious God actually collects them in a bottle. Evidence of our love and sacrifice I suppose, our reflection of His love and sacrifice.

  3. Lynda says:

    We can learn so much from those in your dad’s position who just accept and soldier on! Blessings and prayers for you both today.

  4. Perhaps he has a glimpse of the victory that only he can see. Continued prayers and blessings.

    • thank you Fran…these are hard days and nights

      • Julie, I know, but there is an end and a blessing that you otherwise would not experience without going through the valley. It is in these times in losing everything that is dear to us that our Heavenly Father and our Lord become all.
        Last week in the doctor’s office I told Jerry that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Even in these times, his wit still comes through. He said, “Are you sure it is not a locomotive?” I answered, “Yes, I am sure.” πŸ™‚ Be steadfast in hope during this time. His grace is sufficient. I pray His blessings for today. With much love ~ Fran

  5. Citizen Tom says:

    When I first heard of the charge of the light brigade, it was because of that “The Charge of the Light Brigade” movie, of course. I only wish Hollywood would settle for the simple truth, but….that never happens.

    Tennyson would not accept less than the truth. Thanks to Tennyson, it never occurred to me to think of the men of that light brigade as anything but heroes. Many would call the men who made that charge victims, but the simple truth is that those who fought and died did so as honorable soldiers.

    Tennyson’s poem recalled people who had momentarily forgotten the difference between honor and dishonor. The honorable do their duty even unto death. That is the best we can do.

    Thank you and bless you and your family.

  6. I see now where you get your tremendous strength and ability to “soldier on” as it were. You and your dad are both amazing individuals. Love and hugs, Natalie πŸ™‚ ❀

  7. Barbara Purdy says:

    I have information on James F. Youngs family were abouts if want to contact

    • Thank you so much Barbara– Denise, his youngest daughter , and I finally connected and I actually, at long last, sent her the bracelet-
      As you both share the same last name, I suspect you are connected / related to one another ☺️

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