SYMBIOSIS by Sylvia Wohlfarth

The sorrow of mothers.
‘They suffer in our coming and our going; And tho’ I grudge them not, I weary, weary of the long sorrow…’ 
– Padraig Pearse 

Editor’s Note: We recall his triumphal arrival into Jerusalem just a few days before. The adulation, the glee and the cheers washing over him like a clamorous outpouring of anointing oil. The joyful solemnity of the Passover Supper and the mysterious ritual of comparing bread and wine to his body and blood. The long night of prayer, violently interrupted by Roman soldiers, a betrayer, and the jealousy of a threatened high priesthood. 

Then came the ‘trial’, the public lashings, the offer to free him only to be rejected by the same people who had so generously run to welcome him, now clamoring to wash his wounds in vinegar. 

The cries of ‘Crucify Him!’ rising higher and more vehement until, fearing a riot, Pilot appeased the mob and washed his hands, not of, but in, the blood of an innocent man. 

Every lash of the whip, the weight of the cross, every tumble, the furrowed brow bleeding blood, the cruel thud of the hammer pushing metal through his flesh into the tight grip of hewn wood. The raising up, flanked by thieves. The gasping for breath. The swollen and lacerated flesh, weeping red and dripping crimson. His final concern – his Mother and her future welfare, before he drew his last breath. 

Every act of cruelty witnessed by her. Every blow felt by her. Every nail a dagger in her heart. Every breath, a breath she willed to take for him, until none were left. 

The sorrow of mothers. ‘They suffer in our coming and our going; And tho’ I grudge them not, I weary, weary of the long sorrow…’, Padraig Pearse wrote in advance of his own execution. 

On Good Friday, let us meditate on Mary’s weariness throughout the passion and death of her innocent son. And to help us, here is a reflection by Sylvia Wohlfarth:

SYMBIOSIS

As a toddler, I never had to wipe away my mother’s tears.
I wouldn’t have known how, or even why.
She was the one who wiped away mine,
as is nature’s maternal way.
I see you, little boy, wipe away your mother’s
tears with your small hand, and look at her
with such love and care. The way you’ve
watched your older siblings do the same
to salve a mother’s grief.

Maybe you wipe away your older
sister’s tears as well, as she tries to wipe
her mind clean of memories of kidnap and
rape, and fails. You hear her sobbing in
her bed at night, and try to understand.

Your mother brushes away your gentle
little hand so used to comforting damaged
souls. She knows this shouldn’t be and
smiles, ashamed. But she is broken, with no
wings to fly her to deliverance.

A mother who has lost her voice,
she tries to speak and say why she is
hurting so. I bend down to catch
those whispered words of pain as she
narrates her family’s flight from fear
and why she is actually here.

She tells of how, one day, boko haram
swooped down upon her village, and
on their trail of savagery, killed all who
came their way. Her father, her sister,
her voice breaks off and her eyes again
begin to fill, and start to overflow.

You turn to me, little boy, and in your
toddler’s tongue, try excitedly to explain
your mama’s need for care. She cannot
help her tears, can’t I see? Yes, I do, indeed,
my little man. And you solemnly turn around
once more, and stroke your mama’s hand.

Soon you will be two and a half and
old enough to join your playmates, and
become the child at last. I so wish you
that. For your shoulders are far too young
to bear this trauma of cruelty and abuse
and handle this horrendous wrong.

Another tear, another stretched out hand,
a Pavlovian gesture, so not right, my dears.
I watch you both, you on her lap, each
throwing out anchors to save their gentle
souls, and wipe away my tears.