Often times on my break from work I go to the large Cathedral in town, weather permitting, I sit outside where I can watch the birds fly around and the listen to the bells chime, or go inside to the small private chapel and light a candle. When I am there I feel closer to my grandmother who passed away nearly seven years ago. She and my grandfather were devout Catholics and without irony my grandmother, Mary, married a man named Joseph. And so began my religious upbringing and childhood full of rites and rituals. Although I have strayed from that particular sect I still find comfort in large ornate churches, the lighting of a candle and getting on bended knee to say a prayer. I recently picked up Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary. Tóibín is a master. He takes the most well-known story and turns it on it’s head. Don’t we black sheep love a good twist on a old tale? There is nothing so shocking in his words, but in the idea that Mary may not have believed her son to be THE son of God. She is a mother, torn apart by her own grief, her confusion in the people around her, and her guilt for being alive when her son is no longer. Tóibín’s genius lies not in shock and awe but in a simple thought, that Mary was her own woman and saw the world through a different lens than the rest of her comrades.
“There are times in these days before death comes with my name in whispers, calling me towards darkness, lulling me towards rest, when I know that I want more from the world. Not much, but more. It is simple. If water can be changed into wine and the dead can be brought back, then I want time pushed back. I want to live again before my son’s death happened, or before he left home, when he was a baby and his father was alive and there was ease in the world. This is over now. The boy became a man and left home and became a dying figure hanging on a cross. I want to be able to imagine that what happened to him will not come, it will see us and decide – not now, not then. And we will be left in peace to grow old.”