Mine

Pain grips my heart so tightly my lungs feel its pain. Throbbing, bursting within its cage, it fights to maintain a hold. The pieces of it struggle for freedom, but sheer strength keeps it together. I cannot lose a grip now. Everything is fine. It’s all okay. You’re all right. My mind ticks off bland statements of reassurance. But then, I meet their eyes, their sad, solemn eyes. Any hold I have shatters, and pieces of my heart float down into the pit of my stomach. My stomach knots, trying to brace itself against their intrusion. I beg my legs to stay in place, not to run to each of them, hug them and let them know I care.

They don’t understand. They don’t understand that even though they are not mine, they are mine. They, well most of them, will always hold a special place in my heart. Even when they speak ugly of me, hate me for reasons beyond what I understand, ignore the potential I see in them, or move on as though I was just “some teacher”, they will remain in my heart as mine. Because my students are just that. They are mine. Am I tough on them? Yes. Because I love them enough to push them into better things. Do I hug them? Yes. Because some of them are not hugged often enough. Do I wipe their tears? Listen to their fears? Banter back and forth with them? Yes. Because they are mine- they are MY students, my kids.

So as I watched those boys file past me in the gym today as the funeral ended, my heart was obliterated. Not so much from my pain, but from that which was so evident on their faces. Faces that are those of boys who are not yet men, striving to be strong in this time of loss. Though I am so, so sad to lose Cameron, a boy who, as everyone knows, was sweet, kind, and an all-around great kid, I am mourning for my other kids. Cameron, I know, is hanging out waiting for us to join him later.

But for those kids who remain, my kids who remain, who still have the challenge of loss, my heart is broken and tears fall.

Hearing from the other end of the phone, “Mrs. Dyson, he’s gone” will forever haunt me. That sweet voice, which is normally so bubbly, so full of wonder, calling to tell me the news was full of such pain and overwhelming suffering. Her tears seemed to leak through the phone and fall onto my shoulder. I swear I felt them. But I was too far away to offer that hug. That hug that she wanted, that I so very much needed. Her pain, her loss became mine in that moment. Because she is one of mine.

Now here we are. Here we are telling ourselves, “Cameron wants us to…”, “Cameron would say…”, and “My, look at that storm outside.” Here we are with our wonderful memories, our tears and laughter, our storms and peace. Here we are. Together. Because we are friends. Because we are family. And I grieve with my kids as they grieve together. And we rise together.

And we remember just one of those special kids- one whom I am fortunate enough to call mine.  

She Stands

Snot melted from her left nostril, pooling with the tears streaming down her face. She dare not lick her lip though she instinctively felt the need. Desperation welled up inside of her tossing its ugly head, beating its fists against her rib cage. All the while she stood there immobile. Her body rebelled against her screaming mind, “Run away!!” But she could not go. She stayed. Looking up into a face she scarcely recognized. Could he even be the same man whom she had loved? His was a face she had sought for love, comfort, direction and peace, now he was barely a shadow of who he once had been.

Guards shouted at her to step away. “Move, you whore!” One shoved at her, but she kept her ground. She pierced him with her eyes so that he dare not try again. She stared into their dirty faces, seething, trying to tamp down the hatred inside of her for these people. They, who had invaded her homeland, stolen from her and tarnished her soul, now trying to wrench her last moments with him. Her gaze was enough that they stepped aside avoiding the assault of her stare, leaving her grounded in the mud. She would not move. She would stand.

And stand she did. Tears continued to flow, but she moved not her face from his lest she miss. She watched each agonizing breath as he hung to what little life there was left in his body. She sought to meet his eyes, but they remained swollen shut. Just one glimpse from him is all she needed for the strength necessary in the days to come. Just one.

Darkness threatened her view of his face. “Please, God. Please.” She prayed, hoping for a morsel of mercy. The guards continued to push and taunt at the crowds, but not one entered her line of vision. Numbness replaced the hate and anger. She stood.

Suddenly, he moved. Just a fragment. But he moved. She watched as he fought the swelling to open his eyes. His eyes, his kind eyes were still there, hidden beneath the folds of flesh and suffering. Rather than finding her face, he sought the sky. Grimacing as he tilted his head upward, his eyes found the clouds above. She watched, fighting the urge to grasp him, pull him to her, and make the moment go away. Her heart burst in her chest as she watched helplessly, unable to offer him anything in his moment of suffering. Yet she stood.

The clouds let loose a thunderous roar. The crowds screamed as the ground began to shake, yet she stood. Over the chaos, she barely heard him.

“My God. My God. Why have you forsaken me?” His voice, strong as it once had been, was stricken with defeat and agony. His loneliness pierced her heart. His desperate cry slapped her across the face. Yet she remained standing.

She watched as a tear slid down the cavernous wounds in his face, dripping from his chin. His head slowly sank downward toward his chest. His eyes, for just a moment, met hers before closing. Before eternity was changed.

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Imagining the scene at the foot of the cross of Jesus is heart wrenching. Place yourself in the shoes of one who loved Jesus, but who, despite the greatest attempts, could not understand him. This love, this devotion must have been unlike any other. It was not romantic, conditional, familial, or earned. Their love for Jesus was innate, instinctive.

This writing is not from the perspective of Mary, Jesus’ mother, nor of Mary Magdalene. It is that of Salome.

Mark 15:40 states: “Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were  Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome.” Who was Salome?

I don’t know. But whoever she was, she was brave enough to stand at the cross when others had deserted Jesus. History tells us little, but this verse tells us much.

According to the historian Josephus, Salome was the name of King Herod’s step-daughter, whose mother wanted the head of John the Baptist. Could they be one in the same? Or is that name just a common one, as ‘Mary’ was? Perhaps this girl, who once danced provocatively in front of a king for gifts became one of the very first Christians. Just my imagination running wild…