VIA DOLOROSA

 

This morning I visited the old, walled city of Jerusalem. I walked on Via Dolorosa, as did Jesus before his crucifixion, small signs designating the Stations of the Cross.

But Via Dolorosa is also a bazaar full of stores of clothes, food, and souvenirs, colorful dresses hanging outside and store owners importuning you to come in, browse, have tea with mint. Most people stop and look at everything outside—purple and magenta coin scarves and corset belts for belly dancing (Get this! my sister instructs me), Turkish coffee and tea sets, small hills of orange saffron powder, and mounds of wooden crucifixes—how could you not? It’s colorful and downright gorgeous.

And in the middle of it all come the groups of pilgrims. They drop on their knees as their guide reads what happened to Jesus at this particular spot: Here he fell the second time; here he met the three women of Jerusalem, etc. They fall to their knees in the middle of all the shoppers, listening to that echo of events 2,000 years ago.

De donde estan ustedes? I mumble to an elderly lady leaning against the old stones, mesmerized by the cross commemorating Christ’s 6th Station. De Argentina, she says, barely looking at me.

The hubbub of tourists runs alongside them as they hear a different song. No one pushes, there’s no impatience. The two streams run together.

And I think of a friend of mine who emailed several days ago that his mother passed away. He attached two photos of her, one showing her as a young woman getting married to his father, the other somewhat older, when he got married. He sat with her at her bedside till she died.

I also think of another email yesterday from another friend about the joyous birth of a new granddaughter. She told me that the baby’s dark, bright eyes evoked some place else. Looking at them, she felt as though another world, another universe, was looking back at her through the baby’s eyes. She, too, sat with the baby’s mother till she gave birth.

And I think of myself, sitting by my mother these days when she won’t dress but remains in her pajamas, lacking interest in the world in which she had been super-active for so many years. She still has a strong will to live, the doctor told us earlier today.

Still, I feel like I’m sitting along some invisible perimeter dividing me from an invisible land on the other side, an echo of which reaches my ears even in the middle of the honking of cars on the street outside and the smell of coffee from the cheese shop a few doors down the block.