The first beam of light slipping through the pane of her solitary window early that morning found the woman already awake. It was her custom to rise before the break of dawn to sit for a few moments with her only son before going about the day, but that wasn’t why. The truth is, that night she had hardly slept.
The previous week had begun like a dream – the most impossibly perfect dream a mother could ever wish for. When she had heard the news that a crowd of thousands had welcomed her son into the capital, a smile of joy and pride had swept across her face. His years of hard work had begun to pay off: his political career was finally going somewhere. Soon it wouldn’t just be thousands in one city, but millions across the entire world who would chant his name.
However, despite the joy, somewhere in her heart the woman knew that the sailing wouldn’t all be smooth. Even after this latest triumph, there would still be setbacks and failures – moments that would test even the strongest of wills. But she also knew that those challenges would never overcome the will of her son, and so they would never test hers.
Little did she foresee that the most trying of those moments would arrive so soon. From what scant details she was able to gather from his friends, it had been just another evening. They had all had dinner together, but when they decided to go out afterwards one of them had disappeared. It was all a little fuzzy from there. The authorities showed up, there was a scuffle, and her son was arrested for something he didn’t do.
She arrived in the heart of the city early the next morning to try and find him. First she visited the place where he had been processed, then the prison, then the building where the preliminary hearings were set to take place. At each location, she just missed him, and began to panic a little more.
When she finally found him, he was standing before the judge, beaten and bruised. Her heart broke – all she wanted was to run over to him, embrace him, and wipe the blood from his face. But she couldn’t – a line of guards stood between them.
For a legal proceeding, this one was pretty shady. There was commotion and yelling and it wasn’t entirely clear what was going on. The judge was clearly uncomfortable, and each time he spoke he was interrupted angrily by members of the crowd. Some at the front began a chant, and the cry rose louder and louder until it reached the ears of the woman.
“Crucify him! Crucify him!”
The woman followed her son as he was led outside the boundaries of the city to a hill known for its public executions. There he was lifted up and left to die. His body was broken, his face covered in blood. She, the woman who had given birth to him and raised him for nearly thirty years, barely recognized him.
She cried and cried and cried. Yes, she had known that this was going to happen one day, but that offered no comfort. He was still her son. No parent should have to watch their child die, and no one should have to die like this. She could hear the pain in his voice as he fought for each and every breath.
Moments passed like hours. The woman silently begged her son to let her take his place, if only for a moment. She knew it was impossible, so instead she resigned herself: if she couldn’t suffer for him, she would at least suffer with him.
A pair of strong, young hands gently grasped her shoulders, offering her silent support. The woman didn’t have the heart to turn, but knew that it must have been one of his friends. Then, her son struggled to speak.
“Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.”
The woman’s eyes filled with tears she didn’t know she had left. Here, in a moment of utter pain and agony, her son was still thinking of her, wanting to make sure she was cared for. A wail escaped her lips, and she collapsed into the arms of his friend.
Clouds slowly covered what had been a perfectly blue sky, as if nature itself had observed the silence of man in the face of the death of his God, and been forced itself to cry out. But before the storm began, her son spoke one last time.
“It is finished.”
The rest of the day was a blur. The woman was eventually led back to her home and to her bed. Though she hadn’t slept the night before, she still couldn’t find it within her soul to close her eyes. All she could do was replay the events of the day over and over and over. The pain in his eyes – not just physical, but something else – like he knew that so many would let his suffering go to waste.
When dawn broke the next morning, she still hadn’t slept. Her son’s friend offered to bring her some food, but for the moment all she wanted was time to ponder. She told him to go rejoin her son’s other friends, and she sat alone.
The three hours on the hill the day before may have felt like an eternity, but somehow, this day was even longer. Because she was waiting.
When the light finally slipped through the panes of her solitary window early that morning, the woman was already awake. Truth be told, she had hardly slept.
She stared at the sun as it rose, barely noticing the beams creeping across her ceiling and onto the doorway. When they finally illuminated the door completely, there came a voice.
The woman turned, not in surprise, but in joy. She leapt into the arms of her son, embracing him and kissing him. There, standing in the middle of the home they had shared for years, they both wept.
Somewhere on the other side of the city, his friends were huddled together in a room, wondering if they would be next. Some women were on their way to his tomb, hoping to persuade the soldiers to let them bury his body properly. Somewhere those soldiers were telling an impossible tale to their incredulous superiors.
He would eventually visit all of them and share the news of his resurrection. Some would believe, some would doubt, some would laugh, and some would just stare in amazement. But those moments were for another time.
Here, like any good son, the God of the universe had come to comfort his mother. Just as he had chosen through her womb to first enter the world, he chose to visit her first the day he re-entered it.
Seconds turned into minutes, the two of them caught in each other’s embrace. Eventually she would ask him what his plans were, like any good mother, and he would answer that he must go about his Father’s business, as he had always done. They would embrace one last time, and as he turned to leave, she would ask him the question closest to every mother’s heart:
“Can I come with you?”
But in this moment, they didn’t need to speak. She held him just as she had held him in her arms in a stable so many years before. Somehow, he was just as sweet, just as precious, just as innocent…and then he spoke the words which he couldn’t speak then.
“I love you, mama.”