[A note from Dr. Thursday: This story appears by special permission from the Editor-in-Chief of Something Good To Read
. As September 15 is the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows (on which we recall Mary at the crucifixion) I thought this would be especially good today...]A Family Matter
The old woman set down the pitcher of water, and poured out a cup. "John, could we go around the Way again soon?"
The man took a swallow. He was in the prime of life. "Certainly, Mother. I have just begun thinking of putting down a few of His words, and it would be of great assistance to me to go along that Way with you." He smiled as he looked at the elderly woman who was now his adopted mother.
"I know there are others who would like to do it with you. They will be satisfied next Passover, when you go around - but then you will have other work to do. And besides..."
"Yes, Mother. This city is doomed. I've been thinking of that for some time. But I have some work to do here, now that James is with Him."
"Yes." She smiled. "What an accomplishment. Of course there was also Stephen - did James know him? - and you've since met Paul."
"He's in Roma now. Peter expects to go there soon."
"I know. I forget sometimes and say Simon."
"I think He always
"Of course. 'I will call them by name, and they will follow Me.'"
"And there will be one flock, and one shepherd."
The woman nodded. "Your training has been put to good use. Soon you will have to put it down into writing.
"Yes, Mother. I hope you will help me. You remember more than I do. You saw
"For some years; I wasn't with you on Tabor, though, or other times. Like in the garden.
The man looked at her in alarm. She had never mentioned the garden to him... The garden, that night of the full moon, he and James and Peter were asleep, while He wept in prayer.
"I know; I think of it often."
"I think of it often, too; the stone rolled back, you were young and easily out-ran Peter, you looked in, but waited for him to come first..."
They smiled... Again John wondered about her, though all of them been continually talking about every last detail of their experience, and she certainly had heard every word, and sat there silently. He knew it was a different Mary, but indeed this Mary, far more than all other women had "chosen the better part."
* * *
They walked through the olive grove. There was a soft breeze rustling the leaves.
"Just behind that half-dead tree - see it? - is the olive press. The others sat around there, by that tree. Over here... at this rock, James and Peter and I were."
They walked past it, over a slight bump in the ground, and came to a large rock.
"Here is where He prayed."
The old woman dropped to the ground. Her lips moved silently. A tear began to form at the corner of her eye. She kissed the rock, then got up.
"This is where he
came, with the Temple guard. They took Him this way, back towards the city."
* * *
They had gone into the city. The man had given a few coins to the guard, who let them into the yard behind the Roman barracks. Things were quiet today; the superiors were out, and this way he could get a chicken for his wife for dinner tonight. He had no idea what it was that they
would come in to look at, but it wasn't the first time he had seen the old woman. Perhaps it had been some relative of hers...
"Here is where He was tied. Tied!"
Again she bowed down, lips moving.
"And here they put that - that thing
on His head. And spit on His face. And laughed at Him."
She nodded. A tear dropped down. Then another.
* * *
They walked along the narrow alleys of the City. It seemed quiet. They came to a certain intersection.
"I know," the woman said. "Here is where I saw Him. He had that big wooden beam on His shoulder. Then He fell. He could not get up with it on top of Him, so they got someone from the crowd to help Him."
"That's right. He's a very nice man, but I'm not sure he's ever met you."
"Oh, he's already met me. I won't forget him, either. He helped my Son."
* * *
They went outside the City gate. It was already evening, the sun far down the western sky.
"Here is the place. They still use it, of course, so we ought not stay here long."
The woman nodded. "Let's stay here, at the foot of the hill, just for a moment or two..."
He looked at her. She bowed to the ground. Another tear dropped. He thought he heard words - the same words as they had heard here on this very spot, so many years ago.
He looked up at the beams stuck in the ground and turned from left to right, then his gaze returned to the one in the center.
The woman had gotten up from the ground. She looked at him. "So now you understand about places on His left and His right..."
"They were reserved - not for James and me, but for thieves."
"Those places were." Was there something else she was going to say? But she was silent.
"Oh!" She dropped her cane, and would have fallen to the ground, but he was there with his strong arms, and he lifted her up.
"Let us go on, now, Mother, to the other garden."
"No, John. Now we will go home, and pray, and do as He commanded... Tomorrow we will resume."
They took one more look at the hill and its wooden beams, then walked slowly along the road to their home.
* * *
After they had prayed, they talked. She reminded him of the first time they had been together, at that wedding in Cana, and with her telling the story, it was as if the past was made visible. He called upon his training, and ravelled her words up into his memory... "But you have kept the good wine until now!" he smiled, and poured out a cup for each of them.
The next morning, Peter had arrived, and Jude, and Matthew. Matthew had a scroll with him, where he had started writing some things about Him. It was very interesting, though John thought there was quite a lot missing. Then all of them went out to see the other garden, where the stone had been rolled away. John looked at his mother's face, anxious to see it. Again there was a tear beginning to form - but now there was a smile as well. They did not want to go for a long walk to the hillside where He had left them, but after they had looked in that direction for a few moments, they went back into the City and visited the room where they had waited in prayer until fire and wind had called them forth... The men stood there, their nerves tingling as they remembered. The woman bowed down to the floor.
After a few moments she struggled to get up. John and Peter had to help her. Slowly they made their way back to the place where she stayed with John, and they helped her into bed.
* * *
In a far-off land a man called the "Twin" threw his few things into a bundle, repeating to himself the message he had just received. "Hurry to the City. Our mother is dying." He tied a piece of rope around the pack, and put it on his shoulders, grabbing his walking staff.
"Again I'm not there! I don't doubt any more, Lord, but I still want to see... Please, just one more time."
He was late again. The woman had died before he got there. But when his sad friends had finally given in to his demands, and rolled away the stone, they were again greeted with an empty grave.
John kept all these things in his heart and pondered them. Some of them he wrote down. Others he would only tell his close friends. It was a family matter, after all.