I propped myself beside Anna on her “Hello Kitty” pillow, and slipped an arm under her back. She lay quietly in the bend of my arm. We were two souls pressing together to welcome the night.
“Time for bedtime prayers, sweetie, and then to sleep,” I whispered. “It’s late.”
She groped in the dark for her cross — made from twigs and twine — that lay on the bedside table.
“Hold it with me, Mama,” she urged, and I put one hand over hers, so together we would clutch the cross.
“You want to start?” I asked.
“Yes, Mama,” she paused. “But …”
Anna quieted on this night, still holding twigs.
“I wouldn’t have done that,” she whispered.
“Wouldn’t have done what?” I asked.
“Hang on a cross, and let them stick nails in my hands, and not even get a hug first,” she said.
And we lay quietly, looking at hands clinging to a cross, and remembering the Cross where grace flowed down from a God-man who died alone.
And I remember this:
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” — which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” — Mt. 27:45-46
In the theology of a five-year-old girl in striped jammies, “forsaken” meant this: Jesus died without a hug.
This is the double death of Jesus — intense physical agony alongside spiritual separation from the Father.
He died alone,
so that we don’t have to.
Jesus, who had no sin,
became sin for us.
We have been crucified with Christ,
yet we live.
And so we cling to that cross
On which he died.
(The beautiful irony of our faith.)
“I couldn’t have done it either, sweetie,” I said, hands still entwined with hers, … and with her cross.
And I pulled her in closer, acknowledging this need we have to touch,
to feel the warmth of another,
to feel like we belong,
to know we aren’t alone,
to find hope,
in the shape of a cross.
And together we closed our eyes, and whispered sweet thanks together: “Thank you, Jesus.”
(Drawing courtesy of Lydia, 2007.)