Dear readers: In dealing with parents who lose children, I’ve often wondered what kind of grief Mary and Joseph might have experienced. The following account is my own fictionalized version of how Mary might have felt in the weeks following the crucifixion.

Chaplain Norris

From her dream, she still could see his haunting eyes.

It was the same vile dream she’d had for weeks. The people in her dream had tied her son to a pole and suspended him in the air as they taunted him.

Slowly and repeatedly, their voices formed a chant, “Crucify him.” With each repetition, their voices grew louder. “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Finally, she heard her son’s voice erupt in a terrified scream, “Mama!”

She tried to answer, but her fear ripped her voice from her throat. She struggled. She trudged her way out of the darkness and fought toward consciousness. This must be a dream. It had to be a dream.

Suddenly, she leapt from her sleep, hyperventilating, her robe awash with sweat.

Her hyperventilating turned to sobs. “Why, Jesus, why did you let them do this?”

Joseph found her petite frame in the dark and lay his rough hand on her neck. He lifted his weary body and embraced her.

“Mary,” he whispered, “you loved him. Never once did he doubt that.”

“Then why couldn’t I do something? A mother is supposed to protect her child.”

“Mary, God protected him. He never was ours. He always belonged to God.”

“But why this way, Joseph?”

“I don’t know, Mary, I only know that this way was foretold. I only know our son returned to his heavenly father.”

Joseph pulled Mary back into him. She buried her face deep into his sun-browned chest and began sobbing again.

“I know all that, Joseph!” she said digging her fingers into his back. “I even know that he’ll return someday, but some nights, that just doesn’t seem good enough!”

“Do you understand?” she asked. “I never imagined I could hurt so much. Did you?”

Joseph shook his head slowly and bit his lip to avert his own tears. “But I don’t think we were the only parent hurting that day.”

Mary fixed him with a quizzical look.

“The way I see it, God was the other parent. In fact, I think he learned something about parenting that day.”

“Learned something?” she asked gazing at Joseph as if the answers were somehow encoded into the crevices of his face.

“Yes, I think God learned something the day our son died that he never knew before.”

“What Joseph? What could the Maker of the Universe have possibly ‘learned’ “?

“I think he learned the grief of letting a child go. He experienced for the first time what it was like to have the biggest piece of you die.

“That had to be new feeling for him. I even think that’s why the world went dark for three hours. I think God was crying in a way.”

“You mean . . .?” Mary’s voice trailed.

“Yes, Mary, I mean God knows our hurt in a way no one else can know it. He knows it because he hurt with us. He knows it because that’s the day that his heart broke, too.”

Burkes is a civilian hospital chaplain and an Air National Guard chaplain. E-mail or visit