She took a linen cloth and began washing the blood out of his hair. His head lay in her lap. With the cloth sopping wet she pressed it firmly against his head and stroked downward. It began to soften the blood that had hardened in his long hair.
She thought of her son, a time when he was younger, the first time his hair had been cut, how beautiful each strand was as it fell to the ground. He squirmed in the chair a bit as the steady hand of his father quieted him down.
After softening the blood and taking several strands of hair and pulling them through a folded section of the linen, she returned it to the earthen jar filled with water. It was dark out, the clouds covered the sun as a deep storm continue to pass over the horizon. Had it been brighter, she might have seen the once clear water became cloudy red, though the tears that continued to pour down her face would otherwise have prevented her.
She was careful in softening the blood all around his head as it lay in her lap, lifting up his head and placing the cloth on one spot, then another. Finally, she removed the crown of thorns, working it off gently to avoid tearing his skin or pulling any hairs from their roots.
As one last thorn resisted, one that had penetrated very deeply, nearly an inch beneath his scalp, rupturing nerves as the crown was thrust upon Him, she let out a sob from deep within, causing her stomach muscles to clench, taking the rest her body, feeling as though the whole of her being was wrenching in sorrow. She had been doing well, she had kept it together for a few minutes, but this thorn was too much, like a sword piercing deeper into an old wound.
Finally, the crown came loose. Joseph of Arimathea took the crown and placed it beside the burial cloth, holding it for an extended moment and examining it as one might examine a piece of shrapnel that had ripped through their closest friend.
Next, she took his hand. Black and blue, blood had pooled and dried, forming several layers that crusted and formed crevices, like mud dried in the sun. She thought back to a time when she would offer a treat, how he’d stick out his little hands and smile. She thought of how they’d grown, how they’d become so strong and muscular from wood work.
First one hand, then the other, stroking from elbow to palm, then one finger at a time, wrapped in the cloth and pulled gently to soften and loosen the dried blood. After the first hand, the earthen jar had to be emptied and refilled as the blood thickened the water, making it impossible to clean without new traces of blood leaking from the cloth and forming new streaks on his hands and arms.
“Why… why did they do this to my son!?” She nearly let the frustration and anger overtake her. She knew why, she knew why He’d come into the world. Still, her sorrow and grief were nearly overwhelming.
Slowly, they lifted his body and turned him on his left side, laying his left arm above his head as Joseph steadied his shoulders. The weight of his head remained in Mary’s lap. Slowly, she began to take the sopping wet cloth and rub it against his back. Gobs of blood lifted as though pieces of flesh that had been torn from his back but forced deeper into his wounds. She let out another sob, this one lasting longer than the one before, riveting her body to its core.
The cuts and bits of mangled flesh traveled down his back and to the top of his thighs. Blood had hardened in many spots, taking several passes of the wet cloth to loosen and rub off. Mary could feel the bits of sand and dirt that had accumulated in his wounds from the times he had fallen; they coarsened and roughened the cloth as she’d squeeze his blood from it.
Finally she came to his feet. Oh how the pain must have been unbearable as he writhed to shift his weigh from one point to another, just a bit, here or there, trying to lessen the pain, realizing with each movement that things were only getting worse, stretching muscle, skin, tendon and bone around the iron nails.
She took one of his feet in her hands and gently began to stroke it with the linen cloth. She remembered how she would tickle his feet after supper and how he’d nearly scream; his feet were so sensitive. Tears rolled down her cheeks.
At last, with the help of John and Joseph, she laid his head down on the cloth and stood up. With the sun nearly set, they wrapped Him in the burial cloth, lifted Him up and carried Him to the burial chamber, filled with the deepest sorrow they’d ever know.