Grief tore my soul as I stood watching him die. Finally I understood the suffering I saw when we first met, nearly two years ago. Has time really passed so quickly?
They say that just before you die, your life passes before you. I may not be dying, but my life felt at an end. It’s the smell of fish that I remember and of a childhood watching the boats come into port, a brief time of innocence, before my marriage and the hard times that followed. Then the fateful day my husband became a tax collector, a choice between starvation and rejection. Even our families disowned us – to this day.
Death. His breathing grows faint. I have known too much death. My husband took a long time to die. I felt then I was dying with him, followed by the years of loneliness. Nobody would marry a tax collector’s widow, but I did find comfort with a few. Now they call me whore. Maybe they are right, it was an exchange of sorts, just a different coin.
Death. I can see it in his face, it won’t be long now. Poor soul. How did he deserve this? Things were so different when we met. He was the talk of the town. I was helping serve food at that banquet. So many people, all at short notice. All because this prophet from Nazareth said he would come.
I smile as I remember. I doubted if he would want to come, when in he came, as large as life, with a troop of disciples in tow. Some of them looked like scared rabbits! They were clearly not used to our sort of company. Funny, but I don’t remember much, other than how hectic it all was. Such a milestone in my life, yet the details are almost gone. All I recall was turning around and seeing him standing there looking at me. I felt so ashamed that I looked away, but then he called my name. I never did ask him how he knew, it never seemed to matter. It was the way he called it that mattered: no condemnation, just acceptance. I remember looking up and how his eyes held me. A few seconds, maybe, but an eternity in time. I opened my soul to him. No fear, no doubt, but an absolute trust in the love I saw. I did not care who saw the tears, for I knew what he saw, but I also knew it did not matter. I was cleansed.
That was when I saw the suffering in his eyes. The same suffering I see today, my suffering, but not just mine, all those at the banquet, indeed, everyone he probably ever met. I was in a daze as he moved on, but was quickly drawn back into the demands of what I was doing. So many people, so much to do. But, towards the end, just before he left, he looked over to me and said, “Come, follow me.” There was no need for a decision. I just put down my tray and followed. I have never looked back. But that was then.
All is dark now. I feel cold. Even the earth seems to tremble. What have we done?