When I came to the tomb--my hands holding the burial spices--I looked within, and the darkness hummed with absence. I began to cry, and my tears blurred the outlines of the man in the garden. I begged him to tell me where they had taken my Lord, and softly he spoke my name, "Mary." Then I saw and tried to touch him. My hand seemed full of grief and hope. But Rabboni told me not to hang onto him as he had not yet gone to his father. I raced back to tell the others what I had seen, but they did not believe me at first. They cast my words aside.
Now he is gone I have so much to remember him by. We have his words, which we share during the day but especially at night as we sit around a rough table, breaking bread and drinking wine in remembrance of him, as he told us to do. We tell the stories because that is what we must do. And whenever we tell them my heart feels like a flame inside.
But still, I miss him. I miss his physical body being in the same room with us, walking ahead on a path or beside us. I miss being in a boat with him on the Sea of Galilee, although that time when the storm came up was terrifying. Even when he calmed the sea--with a gesture to the waves like a parent scolding a child into obedience--my heart still hammered inside. It refused to be calm until my feet touched ground again, and I vowed never to go across the sea, even with my beloved Rabboni.
The other night the grief of his passing was so great that my body bent over, like a warrior hiding a killing blow. I fell to the ground with it, holding onto the linen purse I wear inside my robe. That is for taking out in the darkness or for looking into at dawn before the rest are awake. This is what I take out, touch, and think about:
A stone. Unremarkable to be carrying a stone, but this one came from the time when a woman was caught in adultery, and the men circled her like mad dogs, ready to tear her to pieces for her sin. Jesus crouched in the dust, writing something with his finger. I never saw what the words were, only his infinite patience as he waited. Then he said, "He who is without sin let him be the first to throw a stone." They all drifted away like leaves before the wind, one by one, then in a rush all at once. This is my stone of mercy.
Then I search for a dusty, brown thread which seems ordinary but is not, for it is from the fringe of Rabboni's shawl, the one he wore that day walking with the crowd. Everyone wanted him to cure their diseases and madness. A woman darted forward, face determined, and put her fingers to the edge of his shawl. Light bloomed on her face, she sighed, and I knew she was healed. Rabboni turned and asked, "Who touched me?" The disciples were baffled he could sense this amidst the crowd. But the healed woman knew and knelt to thank him. This is my thread of healing.
The next thing I find in my pouch is a nubbin of hard bread from the day Jesus taught the thousands who slept on the grass, unwilling to miss one word. Fearing they might faint from hunger, Rabboni lifted a loaf of bread, blessed, and broke it. The people sat in small groups as the baskets went around the crowd. Each person ate and was filled by his words and his food. This is the bread which satisfies all hunger.
I am almost afraid to bring out the last thing--a fragment of worn rope from the demoniac who roamed wild and untamed among the tombs at Gerasene. Nothing could hold or tie him down, not even a thick rope or a chain. But Rabboni was not afraid; he beckoned to the naked man to come to him--a short, decisive gesture--and the man crept over the tombs. Hair hid his face, and his bloody skin was pierced by thorns. Rabboni touched his face, whispered some words, and the man was suddenly still as if what had tormented him had flown away into the hot sky. Someone claimed a herd of pigs rushed madly down to the sea. The healed man sat, pushed back his hair to see, and his eyes were clear and untroubled. This is the rope of madness banished.
I could not bear to take anything from the last day--no thorn from the evil crown; no shard of wood from the cross; none of the blood which fell to the dusty earth. No human love could stand to hold such things. But at night, I touch the remnants of the man I knew: the stone of mercy, the thread of healing, the bread that satisfies, and madness banished. As I remember sitting beside Rabboni at the table and sharing wine, a warmth enters me like a flame within: I remember, I love, and I believe.