When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
~ John 19:30
Years ago now, while I was serving as a chaplain, there was a child and her mother that I will never forget. The child had a very rare cancer, and she and her mother had traveled a great distance to come to the hospital I served. The child had just celebrated her eighth birthday. Birthday balloons floated among the ceiling tiles, and cards from classmates and family were taped all around.
On this day it was not a celebration that I was being paged to attend. There were no "Happy Birthday" medleys or laughter. The girl had survived a tricky surgery and was in her room recovering. Her mom by her side, where I had often seen her. This time, she was standing at the foot of the bed as doctors, frantically searching for an answer as to where fresh blood was coming from.
Without notice, the child had begun to bleed uncontrollably. I was being paged to be with the patient's mother, as doctors frantically tried to see where the blood was coming from. It was the hospital's policy that family members could remain in the room, and it was this mother's decision to stand and watch. There was no time to get the patient to surgery. The room suddenly filled to capacity, as doctors and residents, along with nurses and surgical team members rushed in.
One of the doctors looked at the mom, then at me, and asked, "Would you step out of room."
The mother stood watching.
I reached for the mother's shoulder to help turn her away from watching her child bleed to death while incisions from her recent surgery were opened up.
"No, I promised her I would not leave her side, and I am not leaving now. If she is dying, I want to be here. I am her mother!"
There was no more time. No more attempts to remove her from the room, and as a chaplain, my role was to be with this mother as she took me with her on this journey. I stood with her, and watched, as every attempt failed to save this child.
A sense of hopelessness seemed to overpower the room, even while balloons still danced across the ceiling, and celebratory cards, several now on the floor, were covered with blood from the attempts to save this child. The doctor, with tears in his eyes, looked at the mother, who was still standing and watching, as a blanket from the hallway warmer, was brought into the room, and laid across the child. The journey had ended. It was finished.
There is not a Good Friday that goes by that I don't think of this mother, watching her child die, while she could do nothing but stand and gaze at the efforts being made to save her child's life.
Unlike this mother who was in a clean hospital room where people who surrounded her tried desperately to save her daughter, today we remember the events of Jesus' final hours, and his mother, who remained by his side, as the crowd shouted, a sign proclaiming King of the Jews was made, and this man looked on.
Just days before, people celebrated her son with palms that now were on the ground, and were covered in blood by a man who now had nails in his hands and feet, and struggled to breathe, while no one did anything.
Clouds encircled the scene, and a great darkness covered the land, as if God attempted to shield others from viewing. The final words of Jesus are forever in our minds. A mother watched as her child died, and with the scene, the voice of the mother that I stood beside in the hospital years ago, is the voice of the mother I imagine each Good Friday standing next to her son as he hung on the cross dying.
"I am his mother!"
While disciples flee, and soldiers gamble, aged wine that had turned to vinegar is offered on the tip of a branch fashioned with a sponge, that was probably caked with dirt from those who had wiped their brows from sweat and the stains of blood that had splattered with each swing of the hammer.
It is the last thing of this life that he takes in, and his mother watches.
"It is finished," are his last words. Nothing more.
His mother remains and watches.
The young woman who magnified the Lord with the news from an angel that she had found favor from God now watched as the earth shook, and the heavens rumbled. She remained as the child she gave birth to breathed his last breath and died.
There is nothing more to say. Jesus has died.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2017
Dear God, I can't explain why it is that I feel the way I do, but I feel a sense of sorrow that I know You understand. While I know that Jesus came to give life, I am sorry that Jesus died. The plan is perfect in Your eyes, but it is painful. Today, Lord, help me to stand with others who have experienced pain like this, and may I have the courage to remain. Amen.
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.