LP and I sat in the darkened sanctuary this morning, filling the last hour of Y1P's vigil. All night, members of the church came in to sit for an hour or two, quietly contemplating the shrouded cross, the crown of thorns, the half-burned candles from the Tenebrae service.
Yesterday my colleague and I chose favorite books from our shelves to leave for those keeping vigil: Mary Oliver and Parker Palmer and Billy Collins and Henri Nouwen, and more. He came in the middle of the night and read my "Life of the Beloved;" I came later and picked up his copy of "Why I Wake Early."
But first I spent time reading the crucifixion accounts in all four gospels, because this was what LP planned to do. She worked her way backwards from John to Matthew, and I did the same chronologically from John to Mark. Every now and then she whispered a question or pointed to something familiar or surprising. She said, "Really, they're all saying the same thing." I thought of people who write books based on the inherent contradictions, trying to use them to disprove something, and I appreciated her holistic view in contrast.
We both agreed on our favorite portion:
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43, NRSV)
It's funny, because this was a passage with resonance for my mother, too. She asked me to read it as I sat by her deathbed, the passage connected to the Taize "Jesus, Remember Me" on a tape a friend had given her.
I've told this story before. She's been on my mind this week, almost 17 years after her death from metastatic melanoma. She took a turn for the worse on Good Friday, but wouldn't admit it to anyone until Easter Monday.
It's not the only Good Friday memory from my life that stings. I've told those stories before, too. But this week her story and mine came closer than ever before, as I put the pieces together, as I drew strength from the memory of something she once said to me that helps when there is disappointment to bear or illness to navigate or grief to survive.
The gospels give us four stories of the crucifixion. We've told them all before, mostly mixed together, smoothing out their differences or emphasizing them to make a point. Somehow they still move and hurt and sink in and draw out and, ultimately, connect — for me, and LP, and somewhere in spirit, my mother, who took me out of school on Good Friday one day long ago, just because.