Be there, holding them

To the Editor:

My wife and I have been blessed with eight children. During those years of growing up, when one of the children playing outside would scream, their mother would be out the door, like lightning. She would kiss the wounded knee or elbow and finish off the therapy with a big hug. And the louder the crying, the longer she would hold them. Throughout all those eight children, there was a lot of holding.

When you think of it, the act of holding is a universal way of showing support, like the holding of a friend who’s grieving. And it’s a sign of joy, like the thrill of holding a newly baptized baby or meeting an old friend. It’s a sign of love, like the hugs families give when one of their members is about to leave for an extended time.

Perhaps there is no more powerful act of holding than that which occurred on that day 1,981 years ago.

Good Friday is just a couple of days away. This day of the heart-wrenching story of a son and his mother, a mother who first held that son in her womb, then held him as a boy when he stumbled and fell as young boys so often do, and finally held him as he was brought down from the cross. Imagine the depths of her sorrow on that day. Imagine the pain and sorrow as she watched him in captivity, being mocked, scourged and spit upon by the soldiers. Imagine how she wanted to hold him when she saw him carrying the cross, the blood streaming down his face from the thorns digging into his head. Imagine the fear she felt at that moment, thinking of all the suffering her son was yet to endure.

Perhaps in between the fear and pain, amidst the desire to hold her son, Mary experienced flashes of memory in her mind. Memories of the birth, the shepherds worshipping at the stable, the wise young boy impressing the elders in the temple. Memories of all the things mothers do with their children. Happy memories, like when her son did what she asked and turned water into wine at the wedding feast.

But good Friday is the day when Mary saw her son being rejected and treated savagely as a criminal. It’s the day of the agonizing trek to Calvary for the most ignominious death; a day when Jesus’ lifeless, pierced and nailed body would be placed in her arms. Good Friday is the day when we’re called to imagine how difficult it must have been to hold a son at that moment, especially when only days earlier that son had been hailed with palms as he passed through the streets of Jerusalem.

Happily for us, miraculously for us, Good Friday is not the end of the story. Because following the day of pain and heartbreak is the day of great joy, when we sing “He is Risen.” But only by appreciating the great pain and suffering of Good Friday can we realize the great triumph of life over death on Easter.

In trying to picture that scene at Calvary, perhaps we see the people closest to Mary, such as John and Mary Magdalene. Perhaps we see them holding her, embracing her. Trying to console her, even though they could not know the depths of her grief. And perhaps that provides yet another lesson from Good Friday. When those we love suffer pain and hardship, as they inevitably do, we pray and hope for the day of triumph over that pain and hardship. But in the meantime, perhaps our role is just to be there, holding them during their times of suffering.

Mike Garry