I wrote this story in November of 2007 and could never decide how to resolve the ending in a realistic way. I never imagined I would be this mother. Now I live this pain and as I resolve my pain, I hope to finish the story. How would you end it?
The Other Mary
Christmas- A time of love, joy, peace and goodwill, right? Maybe for some, maybe for many, but not for all. For many individuals, Christmas accentuates loss and bitterness toward life, fate, or God. For those blessed with health, intact families, material possessions, friends and a sense of belonging, Christmas is the perfect time to celebrate all the goodness that life has to offer. It is easy to celebrate the idea of Emmanuel- God with us-coming to live on Earth and arriving, if you so believe, as an innocent babe in a manger. Twinkling lights, melodious carols, ribbon laced gifts and decadent food all remind us of the blessed event of the winter season.
But what if this season brings an acute reminder of what you don’t have? Of what you had, but lost? Or of what you always wanted, but never had? What if it only heightens your already cynical nature, creating an even greater disparity between the haves and have nots?
On a regular basis, amid the practicalities of daily life- one is able to submerge those bitter feelings of what one feels they are missing. Perhaps you are single longing for a mate. Perhaps you are in a relationship, wishing your lover would make a permanent commitment. Perhaps you are married and longing for a child, but after years of trying you have lost all hope. Perhaps you are trapped in a loveless relationship and every happy couple reminds you of what you acutely long for. Perhaps you had all the happiness of a loving family and it was taken from you in one moment by a drunk driver or fatal illness. Whatever your situation, the commercials on TV, the talk of friends about their upcoming happy festivities all heighten that otherwise dulled sensation of all that you do not possess.
In all this you feel so very alone, so alone you are contemplating removing yourself from this planet. Your conscious and unconscious rage at a creator and father who has seemingly abandoned you, surfaces to your emotions and you want to lash out at yourself, others and God.
I know of another story from this season of the year which is rarely discussed because no one wants to remember the reality of the beautiful coming of the Christ child. But the reality is that with one life came much much death. Perhaps you need to be reminded that with the joy of Christ’s birth there came much sorrow.
You see there was another mother in Bethlehem named Mary. You never heard of her? That is because she was not a holy virgin. She was merely a young first time mother who grew up in Bethlehem, married a nice Jewish boy, who happened to be a carpenter, and at the ripe age of 20 years old became a first time mother of a darling curly headed boy named Joshua.
Joshua was the joy of her life. She loved her husband, Zachary, yes, but Joshua she adored. He came into the world with little resistance. The midwife said she had never had such an easy first time delivery. Joshua was so mild mannered, crying only when he required his mother’s milk or when he was overly tired. Mary was a dutiful and attendant mother and carried Joshua with her all places- to market, to bring Zachary his lunch when he was at work, to visit her mother and sisters. Joshua grew and flourished without any separation from his beloved Mother Mary.
But that all changed in one day, in one moment with no warning, no special dream to tell her to escape. In the middle of the day, a few hours before sunset of the Sabbath, Mary was preparing her Shabbott table. She had just laid Joshua to nap as they had had a long day down at the river doing the weekly wash. Joshua was sleeping and Mary stepped outside to shake out the Sabbath table cloth. Suddenly she heard shrieks of women in the distance, the likes of which sent shivers down her back. All her neighbors flew out of their houses and into the street when they too heard the terrifying peals. They were wondering what could have happened to cause such screaming, moaning and crying when the sound of horses’ hooves and running reached their ears.
As their hearts raced, but before they had a chance to breathe another breath, the soldiers were upon them. They began at the other end of the street, entering homes with no warning or permission. What could these filthy Roman centurions be up to now? First they tax them to poverty and now they are ransacking their homes. It took only moments for those gathered in the streets to realize they were more than ransacking their homes. They were killing. Not killing just anyone, but methodically murdering any boys two years of age and under.
Mary was still trying to process all the commotion; it was all so fast, so surreal that she did not have time to react quickly enough. The soldiers were upon them, upon her as the burly man pushed her aside and stormed inside her home. Within seconds there was the petrified cry of a baby, her baby Joshua. Instinctively she ran inside to Joshua and grabbed him from the soldier screaming, cursing him. But his strength overpowered even the strength of a protective mother as the soldier grabbed Joshua from her arms and ended the cries of the toddler with one slash of his Roman sword. Blood, her baby’s blood, flowed from his chest and he breathed no more. The soldier moved on, his task accomplished, leaving Mary holding her lifeless child. Blood curdling screams rose in her throat, but no sound came as the anguish of what had just occurred stifled her voice, her emotions. She could not breathe. Then it came, the gut wrenching “sound of Rachel weeping for her children because they were no more.”
That day there were no miraculous angels singing, “Be not afraid,” no tidings of great joy, no king’s treasures. There was only sorrow, unending sorrow, a holocaust of the worst kind. No holy night, no special stars – only blackness, utter complete and total blackness. Where was God? Were these not his chosen precious little ones? How could he allow such atrocities to his people? He is God. Could he not have stopped such evil? That day when Joshua died, so did Mary’s faith. It was replaced with such bitterness and anger, at the Romans, yes, but more so at God. She never prayed again or celebrated the Sabbath. And her rage was doubled when she learned, after years of trying to conceive another child, that she would be barren the rest of her life. God had allowed her one and only son to be murdered in front of her eyes. For that she could never forgive Him.
Then, to complete her bitter rage, she later learned that there was a young baby boy whom God had spared that day by sending an angel to warn the parents to leave Bethlehem in the middle of the night. That baby boy God spared, and there were rumors that he might be the messiah. But she would never believe in a God or any messiah who would allow her son to die, so that he might live.