Jesus’ mother, Mary, is venerated by millions around the world, and will be particularly remembered next Tuesday, August 15th, on her feast day. Honestly, it took me years to relate to her, for she always seemed so untouchable, too far up on a silver platform for me to reach. Of course I knew her story; who doesn’t? But she remained emotionally out of my range, just way too well-behaved, too placid, too sacred.
But the day came when I was writing a book about Bible women…and you can’t really leave Mary out of THAT lineup. So I did what I often do when I write: I put myself in her shoes. (Hey, I’m currently writing from the point of view as a rock in a new children’s book; how hard could it be to write about Mary?)
And then everything changed. I thought about her being unexpectedly pregnant and terrified as a young girl, and then running away to Elizabeth’s home in the hills. I thought about what it must have been like to have such a strange child as Jesus in the house. Apparently he was doing miracles at a young age—or else how would she have known he could change water into wine? I grieved with her as she stood in sight of the crucifixion, watching soldiers murder her beloved first born.
I thought about her most as an old woman, reviewing her life. And here’s what I pictured her saying in her final hours, (adapted from The Scarlet Cord: Conversations with God’s Chosen Women):
I told you I was old. That much is true, but there is more. I am near death, crippled and bedridden, lying with my face to the wall in John’s house. My own children visit, but as Jesus so wanted, John took me to his home. He and his wife have taken good care of me.
Early each evening John comes to me, telling me of what it was like to be on the road with Jesus; how my son would cure the sick and the lame, how he invited the little ones onto his lap, how he despaired when people would not hear about his father in heaven. He tells me about Jesus’ friends: Bartholomew and Nathaniel, Peter and Andrew, Mary of Magdala, Mary of Bethany and her sister, Martha.
He tells me tales of Jesus laughing, loving, being whole. If I close my eyes and just listen to his voice, it almost blocks the image of Jesus collapsed on that cross, then dead on the ground. As hard as I try, I cannot shake that image. No mother could.
Being a mother — Jesus’ mother — is who and what I am most of all. I don’t know why God chose me; perhaps I never will. I do know this, though: I want to see my son again. I want to look into his eyes and put my arms around him and talk to him without millions of people around. I don’t want him to leave me again. Ever.
It must be getting late, for I hear John’s voice, although he sounds sad and distant. And there is something overriding his words: music. Lovely, light, elegant, vibrant music. I haven’t heard music like this since…since that day when everything changed, so long ago.
That voice. I know that voice. This time I answer right away.
The angel fills the room, much as he did long ago. Only this time he bends over me, lightly touching my shoulder.
“Favored one, the Lord is with you!”
I can barely turn my head because it hurts so much, but I do. And he is not alone. There is someone with him.
Jesus has come for me.
At once I am up and going, reaching for him with arms that are no longer brittle but sturdy, almost as strong as they were when I held him on that indescribably long ride from Bethlehem to Egypt. He catches me, enfolds me, and I am exactly where I want to be — with him.
John and his wife are in tears, but all they see is my thin, worn, used-up shell of a body, now devoid of breath. Can’t they see Jesus? Can’t they hear the melody? Can’t they see how happy I am?
He and I step out toward the music, now increasing in beat and pulse, calling us, welcoming me home. I have longed to hear that sound ever since I was a girl—so terrified, so alone.
Again I hear Gabriel’s words: “Do not worry, Mary. Do not be afraid.”
And I am not, for I walk with my son. It has been so long.
I walk–with my son.
Thanks be to God for Mary, for her powerful witness, and most of all, for her love.