The Passion of a Wonderful World

The morning of Good Friday, my sleepy child hung on my neck and looked at me with expectant eyes, seeking a distraction from his runny nose. I looked at the gray skies out the window and, reflexively, began to sing – You are my sunshine…my only sunshine!  With a quick smile, he began to laugh and bounce.
Suddenly, an old familiar tune popped into my mind and flowed from my mouth:

I see trees of green, red roses, too,
I see them bloom for me and you
and I think to myself, 'What a wonderful world...'

My son's joy prompted me to search for and play the full song. Louis Armstrong's serenade swirled us around the room as we sang and danced. The final verse arrived and, before I knew it, tears began to brim in my eyes with an unconscious recognition; I fell silent and just listened to the poignant close:

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow -
they'll learn much more than I'll ever know,
and I think to myself, 'What a wonderful world...'

I sighed and pulled my boy a little nearer. Nothing has brought me closer to a sense of my own mortality than becoming a mother. I have never so fiercely protected a life as I have his, and I have never valued mine so highly until I felt his intrinsic dependence on me. I have said many times that he teaches me how best to heal this world, and myself. He has already been a natural instructor in letting things go. He shows, again and again, that each day brings new possibility, that each new death yields life formerly unimaginable.
The night before, the two of us gathered with community members to honor the beginning of the Triduum. Imitating the symbolic image of servanthood shared in the story that evening, the entire church took turns sitting to have their feet washed and washing another’s feet. Because it was unscripted and simple, resonant icons began to take form as person after person enacted the ritual. Elders washed the feet of young members. Children washed their parents’ feet. Those who needed assistance nobly enacted the foot washing, slowly but surely, with patience and help. Publicly-known disagreements, disputes, and differences faded away as, sitting and resting feet in a bowl or taking up a towel and pitcher, companionship was recognized in the mutual act of grace.
My son was fast asleep; I cradled him in my arms as I sat down. The woman at my feet was a lifelong friend, the mother of my childhood playmates, someone who has washed my feet before in many ways and times. We both shed tears as she gently poured the water over my feet, then dried them. I carefully lowered my son over the bowl and she washed his feet, too. He sighed sweetly as he dreamt, held in the sacred space of being tended to without reciprocation. We embraced, and she held my sleeping baby as I turned to wash the feet of another.
The next morning, dancing to Louis Armstrong, my boy sensed I was crying. He pulled back and looked me in the eyes, softly touched my face, understood beyond understanding. Silently, he opened his mouth and pressed it to my cheek.

I see friends shaking hands, saying, ‘How do you do?’
They’re really saying, ‘I love you…’

It is a magnificent mystery, the truth that my son will see farther into the future than I; his eyes will look longer at the world than mine. I sing to, clean, feed, comfort, play with, learn from, and love this little boy...but I will not know the extent of his expansion. Although I receive bountiful gifts from our life together, the direction of energy most often feels outward and into him. But I trust that this watering of his small spirit will yield seeds, then fruit; I know that my life is meaningful because I try, in futile but dutiful ways, to leave this world more beautiful for him; I trust that when my body finally falls into eternal rest, the continued animations of his life will be as close to a personal immortality as I can imagine.
When I gathered at the church again on Good Friday evening (this time leaving my sleepy little one at home in his father’s arms), a familiar story of suffering-love was transformed. Rather than hearing a story of a man’s self-sacrifice for a new world, I heard the story of a son, loved and lost. In my mind’s eye, all I could see was Mary at the foot of the cross.
Mary, Mother, looking up at a son to whom she gave her life.
Mother, gazing at her suffering son crucified unjustly…the eyes of countless women watching their sons shot, beaten, executed, sent off to war.
Mother, holding her child close…waking with him in the morning, dancing and singing with him, feeling his wet kiss on her cheek.
Mother, living beyond what her son would see – the cruel inverse of the right destiny of parents and children.
Mother Christ, borne through a woman who had to watch her son die, then live into the mystery of continued life.
Mother Christ, alive in women across the globe who have died to their old selves to give life to their children and the children of all future generations.
I listened as, in the circle of silence, the millennia-old story shifted to a litany calling those gathered to open their hearts to the people of our planet still crucified. Suffering people – a people of Passion, which means to hurt. Compassion – the place of suffering together. Community – a place where suffering is transformed through our oneness. 
The starving, the tortured, the poor, the oppressed…Christ borne as Children deserving of restoration of dignity so that they may live into the future they have come to manifest.
I watched as two women danced around a simple, wooden cross that had traveled across Louisville earlier that day, carried by pilgrims who stopped at living stations, places representative of the injustice that still harms our human family. The women danced, and I saw them as two spirits swirling around this wonderful world, burning with flames that held the hurting, blazing with fire to heal the harm. 
There is death…and there is resurrection. Life is unfailing and resurrection prevails. This is our Passion story of Easter hope: to continue to make the world new for our children.
Sunday dawned with brilliant sunshine. The birds sang, the light drew the curtains, and my husband, child, and I basked in the relaxed freshness of Easter morning. 
Spring always returns; babies continue to be born. The light always arrives after the rainfall. Eternity comes in moments; salvation, in love.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white,
the bright, blessed day, the dark, sacred night,
and I think to myself, 'What a wonderful world...'

To my astonishment, at my in-laws' house, there was a little board book in my son’s Easter basket with a familiar title. My mother-in-law said she just knew we had to have it when she saw it. Tears again filled my eyes as, Mother and Son, we read the Passion of this wonderful world – one of brokenness and blessing, of hurting and healing, of loving so fully that, when we let go, we know we will be reborn.

…Yes, I think to myself, ‘What a wonderful world.’