It was over. The agony and the rage she'd felt during the crucifixion were gone. In fact, everything was gone. Nothing but the empty cross outlined starkly against the dark sky. Joseph and Nicodemus had already removed the body. Jesus' mother and John had left. She didn't know where the others had gone, but they had. Only she had stayed.
As she stood staring blankly ahead, a soldier came. He was overseeing the removal of the thieves' bodies, and wasn't at all pleased with the day's strange events.
"Woman," he growled, "leave! This so-called King of yours is dead. He should have left well enough alone and let Caesar be God." He swore under his breath. "These wretched provincials. What a god-forsaken land...a god- forsaken city."
He continued muttering and Mary turned and walked down the hill. She was actually happy that someone had told her to go. Vaguely, she wondered how long she might have stayed, otherwise.
As she walked, she immediately was filled with confusion about where she could go. True, she had a family and a home. But without Jesus in their heart, too? No, she couldn't go there.
She tripped over a rock, and, as she stumbled, a hand steadied her. She looked, startled, fearfully, to see who this was.
It was James.
"Mary," he said. "I have been looking for you. When his mother and John reached our home, I asked where you were. They looked stunned. They said they were sure you had left before them. So, I came to look for you. My heart is truly for you.” He said very gently, looking into her eyes, “I know how much you loved him."
She pulled her arm away and exploded. "No one knows how much I loved him... He was all I had to love...the only reason for loving. He even helped me to love myself. And now...there's... nothing."
James was uncomfortable. He loved Jesus, too. He was heartbroken and was ashamed of himself for his desertion of his Friend and Master.
But his heart broke more as he watched Mary. He remembered the first time he had seen her. She was so brazen, so cold, and he wished she would leave them alone. And now, all he wanted to do was make her hurt less, and there was simply nothing he could do or say to make that happen. If she would cry, then he could handle it. But she wasn't crying. She wasn't doing anything. She seemed frozen.
Finally, he gently said, "Come stay with me...with us. It will help if we are together. Besides, his mother needs you. She has been brave throughout this trial. And now a caring woman can be more help to her than any men. Jesus was kind to send her to be John's mother. Since our mother died, he has been very lonely. He misses the gentle touch of a woman. And their insightful wisdom. I know he will love her and care for her, too."
Mary was too distraught to smile. But she was aware that a little of Jesus had been left behind in James. He now had more compassion and understanding of people than she had thought he ever would.
"I don't know how long I will stay, but, yes, I will stay with you. I don't want to be alone; I was alone for too many years. I don't want to be with anyone who did not truly know Jesus and love him as we did."
James was grateful. He touched her arm, and gently walked her to his home.
When they walked inside, she saw Jesus’ mother. And she saw the anguish on her face, the fear in her eyes, the pain in her heart.
And the woman called The Magdalene, the Woman of the Hard Heart, wrapped her arms around the Mother of Jesus, and together they wept.