I talked with three mothers one day. We talked a bit about the situations they were in. We talked a bit about their children. I looked into their eyes. I talked with God on their behalf. And I walked out of the rooms.
Each time, I was drained. Because each time I was talking with a mother contemplating the death of their child.
In one case, the child was near the age of retirement, seeking relief from the aching pain of cancer. The mother was sitting on a sofa nearby, aware of a long journey of pain.
Another mother stood by her child’s bed. She talked of her prayer for him from before birth. The child was mid-thirties, fighting forces inside the head. At the moment, a machine was helping the child breath, as the body recovered from too many drugs taken with intention, without hope.
The third mother had been talking a couple days earlier with her own daughter about a grandchild struggling to breathe. Two last efforts, one medical, one prayerful, had delayed a hard decision, but it would come again.
As I talked with these mothers, as I prayed with them, I was aware of Jesus’s deep emotional response in the time following his friend’s death. Lazarus was dead. Martha and Mary were grieving, balancing the presence of their friend who might have done something with the loss of their brother. And Jesus has that heart-crushing, chest-caving, moment on the other side of words. He weeps. He is troubled again. And then he calls Lazarus out.
I tell them, I feel myself, that there is nothing wrong with that sense of anguish. My voice cracks as I ask God for peace and their child.
And then I think of another mother. Who knew from before her son’s birth that he would be special. Who heard rumors that he had spoken of his death. Who watched him die.
We do know how that story turned out. We can know the who of that story. And I find comfort and courage in my conversations knowing that in the middle of the story, Jesus and Mary hurt, too.