(Note: As I say in the comments, this post came out of the need to bring all of myself, all of my past - even the ugliest parts - into the light of Christ Crucified. The first part is therefore highly personal; the second, from whence comes the title, is more general and no doubt of the greater interest.)
When I was seventeen, my mother had "the flu". She wasn't sleeping well, so I set my alarm to come in sometimes, see how she was. There'd been a bad scare two years before, and I hadn't forgotten. Around 4:00, I remember, I came in - for the third time, I think. Mom was awake; hurting, she said. And she'd been "waiting, yearning" - her words - for me to come.
I didn't even begin to understand. Hadn't I been in twice already? What could possibly be so urgent? I stayed a minute, then said something to her, I don't recall what, and went right back to bed: I'd check in again later. I never did. And there never was a later. By morning, she'd suffered a stroke and was confused. By afternoon, at the hospital, she'd slipped into a coma. A day later, she was dead of a heart attack - her third that day. I wasn't there when she died. I was hiding at the library; hiding from what I could not admit was the truth. My father was there alone.
I've never forgotten those last words to me.
I've never forgiven myself for not staying with her.
I've never stopped wishing for those hours to do again.
Nothing would have changed if I had stayed. She'd been ill for too long and now her body was simply shutting down. But still I would have been with her, I would have been some comfort to her. She knew what was coming; she was in pain; probably she was afraid. Instead, I got another two hours of sleep.
You know what parallel I'm drawing. We've all lived or witnessed our echoes of it. "Can you not watch one hour with Me?" Christ and His so-faithful Apostles who just could not stay awake; who were worse than useless to Him when He needed them most; who fled and, save for one, were not there when He died.
We've all lived our echoes of it; we all know the story. We could all, if you'll pardon me, recite it in our sleep. But how often do we recall that there was one who would have comforted Him? Who would have stayed awake with Him and not fled? Who would indeed rush to embrace Him - once all was accomplished?
When Jesus was in such agony and fear that He sweated blood, where was His Mother? It was Passover; she too would have been in Jerusalem; she was at the Cross the next day. So where was she that night? In the Garden, Christ must have yearned for Mary more than for any other human being. She would have been the comfort He craved, and He surely knew that and desired it. But precisely because of that, she could not be there. At Pentecost, yes; at the foot of the Cross, yes; in the Upper Room and at Gethsemane, no. She could not yet know of what was taking place - because she would go to her Son.
In 'Let God's Light Shine Forth', Pope Benedict describes hell as "authentic total loneliness and terror." At Gethsemane, that was what Christ experienced; that was His cup. "I looked, and there was none to comfort me." A Mother's total love was no part of the road to Calvary. Instead the denial of that love was; the added anguish of knowing there was one He could turn to but must not. Not even to let her know of what was at last beginning - and there was another sorrow, that He was denying her the chance to be there with Him.
Mary, "Mother of the Church and our Mother," is ever there to comfort us in our sorrows as she longed to do for her crucified Son. Our echoes are only and exactly those: they are no more the final word for us than Gethsemane and Calvary were for the Apostles and Mary, and they were taken up by Christ along with the rest of our sufferings and sins. There is the Resurrection; there is Pentecost; there is Heaven in which is the only final Word.