Last Words Series Part Three – "Mary at the Cross"

Mary at the Cross

I am not old. A bewildered mother
since conception who stored up
each moment. Now I will recall
the way you reached for me, a babe,
and only see your outstretched arms.

Son, do not abandon me—every hour
has been mystery, how my Lord suckled
at my breast, relied on me to learn
the ways of men. Standing here watching
you die is my own death. I am afraid.

Yet even now, you look down and know
my thoughts—who will lead me through this,
on whom can I depend? By the power
of locked knees and women I stand,
resigned and resolute. I will soon be without

my son, my Lord. Dear woman, here is your son.


Just like he did with the criminal on the cross, Jesus keeps on looking out for the needs of others, even while he’s dying on a cross.  Seriously, is this guy the Son of God, or what?

In this poem, I wanted to receive the words from Jesus as he gives her John as her son, to take care of her and minister to her needs now that he’s dying.  This puzzles me because Mary has other children.  I don’t know if it is because the others are much younger or because Jesus wanted to entrust Mary to his brother-from-another-mother, John, because he knew that John would be a spiritual rock for his mother once he died.  It really doesn’t matter in the bigger picture. Jesus – suffering, bleeding, sweating, aching, dying Jesus – looks down from the cross and sees his confused and grief-stricken mother and meets her needs.

As a mom, I can imagine the temptation to say to my son, look, just stop with all of this high-minded Son of Man stuff, deny it and live out a happy, quiet life.  I wonder if Mary, who treasured so much of her early memories in her heart, worried about the direction Jesus’s life had taken in his teens and twenties.  Was this rebellious, revolutionary, peace-speaking, Pharisee-scolding son of hers always going to be getting into trouble?  Did he embarrass her by not meeting her expectations, like many of the others who met Jesus while he was alive?

And now she’s standing at the foot of the cross with a few other women and the only disciple that hadn’t completely abandoned Jesus, staring at her son.  Her SON.  This isn’t just the Savior of the World.  It’s her son.  I’m taken back to those early days of our son’s life, when he laid in an incubator, intubated and limp, his very breath mechanically administered, and how unimaginably helpless we felt.  Of course we loved him already, before he was born, but now he’s almost four years old, and we know him.  How much harder it is to imagine him suffering now, after this relationship has evolved so far.  What must it have been like for Mary, who loved Jesus for every second of his 33 years, to know him the way a mother knows a son, to watch him die?

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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