During Holy Week I was on a special pilgrimage.
I went to a mountain in Oregon, almost to the top, and lived with my daughter and her little family off the grid. I took few belongings; only what I could fit in a back pack.
At the airport I was so glad to see them I cried. I had not seen my daughter, Maire in a year. Maire, Jon and little Blaze and I hugged there for a long time.
Then we drove to their “Schoolie,” a tiny house fashioned from a school bus that sits on their mountain land, to spend the next several days with them, living as they did, learning to do and experience new things I never had before.
My daughter told me it meant so much to her for me to come and stay with them. I understood it was a gesture of acceptance and love that touched her.
It also meant a lot to me to live as she did and learn her ways. We talk on the phone every day but there is nothing like stepping into someone else’s days and nights to help you be close to them.
The land is beautiful. The trees are tall and stately, the ground is both rocky and full of soft grasses. There is a stream there, and a grotto you can climb up to.
Jon and Maire have to do things I never have to do, like chop wood, carry water, wash dishes in the snow.
I let my daughter show me how to do the things she does.
I got a lot muddier on a consistent basis than I am used to being…. muddier and colder and more tired.
I thought of how Jesus emptied himself and took our form. We know he did this to save us. I also think he did this to join us and show his love to us.
Maire has experienced a lot of judgment from people about the life she has chosen. I wanted to come not to judge but just to be with them. She knew this and felt very loved by it.
They delighted me with their ingenuity and cleverness. I was impressed.
“The Lord delights in His people.” I thought about this as I watched some of the solutions they had come up with to make their life work. I think the Lord does delight in us. I have sometimes speculated that since He is all knowing, He can’t be surprised by anything. However, perhaps He hides things from himself so he can know the joy a parent has in watching his child’s life unfold, seeing what they will do with it and the gifts they have been given. That way He can have the fun of being surprised as I have been.
We all worked outside for much of the day, came in at night, and dealt with dinner and the little one. I thought about how “conscious living” as Henry David Thoreau spoke of it, was a spiritual practice, and that living close to the earth as my daughter and her family did, was naturally a very prayerful existence. Living in the midst of so much quiet and beauty is healing. Taking care of basic human needs in such a direct way is conducive to mindfulness.
Maire was very pregnant which was the main reason for my visit. One night she was busy doing things outside but she showed signs of labor beginning. It was quite a drive to the birthing center we were going to so Jon and I thought we should get going. She was upset because she had “too much to do.” We smiled but got the truck loaded up with the toddler and the things she would need. She was embarrassed that her feet were dirty and that Blaze hadn’t had his bath yet.
At the birthing center, as she lay in the bed, I got a warm wet wash cloth and tenderly washed her feet, cleaning between her toes as I had when she was a little kid. Thinking about it later, I realized that doing this, I was taking part in Holy Thursday celebrations after all, just in a different way than I usually do.
“Do you know why Jesus bore the cross for us according to the Letter to the Hebrews?” I asked Maire.
“Because of the joy that lay before him.” She smiled.
For a while she struggled with fear and misery. I thought of Jesus in the Garden of Olives. Then resolution came to her as she paced the floor. I saw her jaw set and her chin lift. “OK. Let’s get this thing done. I want to see my baby.”
“I have set my face like flint,” the Prophet Isaiah has the Suffering Servant say.
I was able to be with my daughter and her family through labor and delivery. I felt that helplessness in the face of intense suffering that anyone does at the foot of a laboring woman’s cross. I thought of Our Lady, and how she didn’t want her son to suffer. But she knew he was the God who makes all things new and that he had said he must suffer for us. We are her children and she wanted us.
My daughter is strong and full of love. She had Jon and her mother here with her both to support her and to care for her other son.
I kept thinking, of course, of Good Friday, the suffering of Jesus for us, and his gift of his mother to the Apostle John. My son-in-law and I were are good team.
Jesus said there would be sorrow, like that of a woman who knows her time has come for labor. Then in the end, she is full of joy that a new life has been born into the world. He said we would have joy to the fullest and that joy no one could take from us.
Brazos Lee Devlin was born into the world.
Christ is risen.
I missed a lot of the Tridduum. But not really. 🙂