Woman, behold thy son.
        John 19:26


        I can hardly bear to think of you on that hill
        with the sweating, jeering crowd, Mary,
        after the long, stumbling walk from town,
        dust scratching your thoat, exhaustion turning in upon itself,
        and a blood-red ache throbbing in your chest.
        But you are there, as a hush falls over the crowd.
        Ominous. Deep. A stifled sob escapes from a woman near you,
        as iron beats against iron and His hands are nailed, nailed, nailed.
        Up now! Hoist high! His cross becomes a raw scar, cut against the sky.
        No returning now, Mary. What you have given is broken, scourged, and spiked to a beam.
        And though you may hold a silent scream behind the beating of your heart,
        you do not turn away. You stand there, a silence hidden among the shouts, a prayer, a balm to heal the kiss of Judas on His cheek.

                Your eyes meet His, and all the dwindling years pass between you in that glance:
        a baby's spread fingers exploring your face;
        a small boy's laughter sounding in the summer sun;
        sturdy shelves and tables fashioned for you by His calloused hands;
        His clear strong voice leading the family in prayer at Passover time;
        the goodbyes, the tears, the glad returnings;
        all gather to a point for you to hold one last time.

                A strong arm tightens around your shoulders now.
        It is John, your Son's beloved friend.
        In labored syllables, Jesus speaks,

          "Woman, behold thy son."

          And to John,

         "Behold thy mother."

        With what rush of love you must have accepted that unexpected gift,
        a precious, sudden raining down of tenderness,
        a final seal of His love upon your heart.

                But the sharp, stark cross remains, and the One you love most in all the world hangs upon it. Bleeding.
        For some long moments now, He has not spoken, nor raised His head, nor seemed to live.
        But now He speaks once more, speaks as you remember Him speaking when He was a boy, lying on His bed in Nazareth at the end of a long tiring day.


        "Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit."
        It is over now, Mary.

                Some say they placed Him in your arms when they finally took Him down.

        I can see you gently untwisting the thorns from His tangled hair, covering His wounded side with your garment, and rocking Him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. But He is dead, Mary. Dead.

                Oh! Dead that I might live!  

        Precious Lord, I am so unworthy of Your sacrifice! But seeing You die as Your mother did, has made me love You more than ever before.
        Could it be that's all You ask of me this day?