I paint a Black mother…
holding the contour of her loss.
We all have fears about our loved ones, and for us mothers and fathers, fears about our children loom large. Someone said, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body" (Elizabeth Stone, teacher and author). When something bad happens to my children, it feels like it is happening to me. I cannot think of a greater pain than the suffering you feel when your child suffers.
The painting reminds me of the many images of Madonna and child. I think of the pain for Mary, the mother of Jesus, as she held her baby son. In several Bible stories she heard prophecies about her son and “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Jesus was her “heart...walking around outside [her] body,” and she pondered his life in her own heart.
Imagining Mary standing beneath the cross where her son Jesus was hanging is unbearably, achingly heartbreaking. Jesus embodied their love when he told the disciple standing beside Mary, “here is your mother.”
When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother” (John 19:26-27).Even as he was being tortured to death Jesus cared for his mother. How must Mary have felt -- hearing his words of love, watching her beloved son suffering and dying.
Titus Kaphar’s painting reminds me of Michelangelo’s Pietà. Here, too, a mother is “holding the contour of her loss,” her beloved son, dead.
It is hard to bear the sadness in this world. As we hold the contour of our loss, God holds us. May we rest in the healing of his love.