African grandmother, Gogo, patterned scarf covering the closely shaved tight curls, once pure dark, now a contrasting silver-gray. Gogo holding her granddaughter, one hand clasped over the other, providing a seat for her round little bottom and a shelf for her eyelet white dress.
The mama is at a distance. Inside the house, she leans on the edge of the window opening, her arm receiving the sun and her face hardened in the shadow. Removed from the firewood that needs to be gathered, the mud-caked shoes, and the toddler arms reaching to be picked up.
She did her part. She went through 27 hours of childbirth; she’ll be quick to remind you. And it’s her breasts the little one crawls to in the middle of the night, feeling for the source of sustenance and comfort.
In the dark of the night, the hand gently stroking the back of her daughter’s head betrays her feelings of love. When daylight comes she puts on her defensive shell.
She won’t be here long. She knows it. Who’s it going to help if she allows herself to get attached? Surely it’s better to keep her distance and spare her little one the grief of losing her mother so young. Bond to Grandma, she’ll be there. But me, cling to me not, I will soon not be with you.
Is this not one more powerful quality of Jesus, the Christ? He chose to stay present in the moment and to love the people in front of him—even as he is preparing for death.
I think of the meal Jesus shared with his disciples, his chosen family. We call it “the last supper.” But the disciples probably called it “Passover” or “dinner.” Still not understanding this one amongst them was so soon going to die
Jesus told them. And showed them. And all the while gently prepared his friends for the loss they would soon encounter. Infusing meaning into the daily elements of bread and wine—remember me—casting a vision for reunions in heaven in a house with rooms for all, praying for the world and his closest friends.
In the preparation of leaving, Christ was present, in the nurture and care for his children. Through the deep pain of loss, in mud-caked sandals Christ present to nurture, heal, and caress our broken places. Offering presence through the ages, “Take, eat, this is my body.”