In the fourth station of the cross, Jesus and his mother encounter one another.
It's difficult to find an image of this moment ~ difficult for me, anyway ~ which depicts it as I imagine it. The expressions, the postures, the greeting, the embrace.
I do imagine it, often. In the lives of Jesus and his mother. In the lives of my son and me.
Very few of my friends whose children have died have been gifted with the opportunity to share that time with them. (And, as they remind me, being present to a child's final moments of suffering is the sort of gift that strains the definition of the word.) For most of our children, death came suddenly, and far from loved ones.
I've been wondering, a lot, this week, about some of the what-ifs. Mostly about what life would be like if Josh were alive. If the past five years had happened differently.
I don't harbor any illusions about having become a kinder, gentler, more empathetic person. I am mostly a person more easily tired, more impatient, more short-tempered, and probably less kind.
I suppose that I do wonder, though, more than I might have, about being part of the story. Yesterday afternoon, I visited with three women, each dealing with life in the tenth decade, each at her own juncture on this journey toward the cross and beyond. By the time I reached the third, who is in hospice, I was very, very tired, and departed perhaps too quickly ~ although as she is very tired as well, it was hard to tell.
One of the women told me a few days ago about a former pastor (from another church) who always seemed intimidated by her circumstances and ~ she snorted in disgust ~ eager to escape. I have that in common with Mary ~ no fear about being present, no tendency to shrink from aging or injury or death.
But it is a wearying journey.