She stood still as a statue with her baby in her arms. I breezed by her as I walked through the gate to plop my youngest down around the other babies. Before heading out the door, I paused as the daycare workers sought to comfort the mother cradling her ten month old.
“First day?” I ask.
“No, she’s leaving the country for two weeks,” one of the teachers replies.
Immediately the picture becomes clear. The frozen posture is fear. The tears running down her cheek are anticipated separation. The tight squeeze is love. The idea of handing the baby over feels like cutting the tether that has made them one for all the young one’s life. The baby, unaware of the gravity of the moment, waits patiently in mother’s arms. The mother stands paralyzed and unable to take the next step – the hardest step – to hand the baby to another and walk away.
Even now in my office, my heart is breaking for her as she faces the hardest challenge in this life – the severance of intimacy, dependence, and identity. Temporary, but it is the taste of the eternal.
She stands on the brink of slicing one into two. She stands on the precipice of moving from nursing-mother, constant-nurturer, life-holder to far-away well-wisher, prayer-giver, heart-breaking, bystander. Like a parent who waits outside the operating room. Like the grandparents who wait outside of the delivery room.
Like the Holy Parent who watches but does not intervene to rescue the Holy Child.
On this Tuesday of Holy Week, I pause and see the moment for what it is – the heart of humanity that is a unique picture of God as the Lenten journey comes to its culmination. On the eve of the events of the last supper, the betrayal, the abandonment, and the murder of God-in-the-flesh, the mother cradles her baby close. Her love deeper than words can express, she must walk away and trust that Love will triumph over Fear. She must trust that Life will carry her through the darkest days of Separation.
So I pause and let her grief sink in. I carry it with me. I recognize that there is nothing to do to lift her sadness, other than to pray for her strength as she lives through these next two weeks. And I cry out to God, whose heart knows first-hand this woman’s grief. I pause and soak in the reality that to open oneself to Holy Week is to open oneself to the pain of God’s own broken heart. It is to not turn away but to walk straight into it – vulnerable and to let another’s pain connect to our own.
Despite the grief it triggers within me, I give thanks. For I trust that in the act of carrying the grief of another, I am one step closer to the Holy One and one step closer to my fellow humanity. I am one step closer to the shadows of Good Friday and yet, one step closer to the light of Easter morning. I am one step closer to the Love that makes this journey worth the ashes.