“He said today was going to be the most important day of his life,” the woman said, as she smoothed her hair with her hands, then reached for a shawl. “I just want to be there. I hope he isn’t in trouble with the government again. He’s become so outspoken in his criticism. And to the most important people, too!”
“Did he explain what was happening today?” her younger companion asked.
The woman sighed deeply. “He has always been so private about some things. Maybe it would have been different if there had been brothers or sisters for him to talk to; he seldom shared his feelings with his father or me. He only really opened up when your oldest boy came around – they were so close! And when he left home so suddenly all those years ago, I thought my heart would break.”
“I know. I could tell,” her companion turned her gaze downward toward the floor, then reached over to the bed to get her coat before they left. “Do you realize that almost all of our friends are grandmothers? I feel almost embarrassed when they ask about the children: ‘Has anybody gotten married yet?’ ‘Is there a baby on the way?’ And then they’ll start telling me about the latest wedding or addition to the family, whether it’s theirs or their brother’s or some grandmother’s uncle from two towns over.”
The woman started to laugh. Not a “that’s so funny” kind of laugh, but one of those that come from hearing a truth that strikes an ironic chord.
“Not much in either of our families has happened the way we expected, has it?” she said. “You’re such a young widow and I, well, I just worry about that son of mine day and night.”
A knock at the door interrupted their final preparations.
“Come in,” the woman said.
The door opened and a pleasantly rotund, gray-haired woman with naturally rosy cheeks came into the room where the other two women had stayed the night.
“I see you’re ready to go,” she said, helping the younger one with her coat. “Now don’t forget, you don’t have far to go. Just follow the main street to the left when you leave the house – you’ll see where they’re gathering soon enough.”
The older woman took her hostess into her arms and hugged her close. “Thank you so much for letting us stay here last night. My cousin and I never get to visit and this was a wonderful in-between place for us to meet and go see my son.”
The gray-haired woman smiled. She had heard a lot about her friend’s son, how he had become so wild and unpredictable. She hoped today would be a good experience for her guests.
The two gathered up what few items they brought with him and left their hostess, with a kiss and a wave as they began to walk down the dusty street. They talked about their families, the visits they used to make back and forth. The few precious times they were able to go to worship together. They especially remembered how their sons would talk and argue endlessly about the most obscure things in scripture.
Soon, they noticed more and more people had crowded into the street, going in the same direction as they. There was a kind of excitement in the conversations around them and in the quickening rush.
The street gave way to open spaces and soon they could hear the low murmur of splashing, running water. By now they were being jostled and pushed by strangers trying to crowd ahead of them.
“Look! I see him! There he is,” the older woman cried out, pointing ahead to the riverbank. Her companion, a little bit taller than she, could see better.
“My son is there, too!” she cried.
They pushed through to the riverbank just in time to see the younger woman’s son reach out toward his slightly older cousin, who was standing knee deep in the water, his rough camel’s hair vest tied tightly around his waist.
“Behold! The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” the older cousin’s voice boomed thick and sure above the murmur of the crowd.
“Mary, I don’t understand,” the older woman whispered to her companion.
“I don’t know if we ever will, Elizabeth,” she replied. “They were miracles at birth and we will trust God with their lives now, too.”
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