We were there on that black and dreadful day. The word had spread quickly that he had been arrested, so we came, waiting in the shadows as women do. Nobody notices or cares about the women in the shadows; we are so unimportant that nobody notices or cares. Except him, of course. That was part of the wonder and the marvel, he always saw us, and honoured us by his seeing. We were not invisible creatures of the night to him – he saw us, he named us, he knew us. That was why we loved him so very much, because he gave us back our reality. With him we felt whole, and strong and valuable; to the rest of the world we were only shadows.
And so we followed him, painfully, on that last dreadful journey through Jerusalem, the journey to his death. It was agony to see his agony, his body already slashed and torn by the dreadful Roman whip, those terrible thorns causing blood to trickle down his face and into his eyes, his whole body stooped and struggling beneath the burden of his cross. Watching his pain was like being confronted with an obscenity so extreme it was almost beyond our ability to take in, numbing us with horror. So we followed in the shadows, as women do.
We stood there, on that anxious, dread-filled hill, wanting to be with him in his suffering. We could not take one iota of his pain away, but at least we could be there with him. It is what women do. We have no power to take the suffering from the world, but we stand with those who suffer: the crying child, the dying man, the woman racked in the hour of birth. We are there. We are there for the bereaved and the broken – when you live in the shadows you notice the pain of the world which the strong and the mighty overlook. So we stayed there, at the foot of the cross, and we wept for the pity and the horror of it until our eyes burned dry and we could cry no more. And the Roman soldiers and the Jewish leaders ignored us; we were just women weeping in the shadows, and that’s what women do.
And we stayed there watching him die, and our shadows seemed a darkness so vast that the whole world was swallowed up in grief. And all through the next day we lived out the most bitter Sabbath of our lives – so bitter that, in comparison, dust and ashes would be sweet as honey. And we huddled in the shadows and we mourned, on that grey, grey day when there was nothing left to do but feel the enormity of our loss. We had forgotten that it was when darkness covered the face of the deep that God said, “Let there be light!”
The whole world knows the story now, the story of that still-dark shadowed morning when we went to anoint his body as our final gesture of love, and found instead an empty tomb and a risen Lord. But it was our story, we were there, and we drink its gladness and wonder all our days. We were there when the morning broke and the shadows fled away, when our tears were turned to laughter and our sorrow into joy. We did not need our shadows any more.