He threw his head back, shaking the shoulder-length matted hair off of his sweaty face, and took a deep breath. It was then that he caught the faint scent: her perfume. He slumped down again, head drooping forward, and as his hair veiled the horrific scene around him, memories flooded his mind.
Could it really only have been three days* ago? So much had happened since then.
What a difference three days can make.
They had passed through her town and, like usual, had stopped by her house. He was always welcome there and indeed, her family would have been hurt if he had passed them by. He would not have missed visiting them for anything—especially not this trip.
He had tried to explain; tried to tell them all. But it seemed no one could grasp what he was saying—nobody but her, that is. He could tell from the pain in her eyes, and the paleness of her cheek that she understood all to clearly. He ached as she rushed from the room. This was not the way he had wanted to say good-bye.
Perhaps she would seek him out in a more private moment, so they could speak the words left unsaid between them.
She had always been the quiet one, overshadowed by an over-achieving sister and a celebrity brother. Maybe that’s the reason she seemed to listen to him more deeply than most, hearing with more than just her ears. Although he was surrounded by many who cared but rarely understood, her perceptiveness somehow made him feel less alone.
Heavy at heart, he had left their home. She had not returned, but he had to move on. On to a party that evening, and then on his way first thing in the morning. On to more celebration, but also, he knew, to incredible loss, pain and sorrow. The storm that awaited him hung on him like a shroud.
He had done his best, though, to shake it off during the evening meal. The host welcomed him warmly and his traveling companions strove to lift his spirits. They knew he was troubled, but hoped against hope that it was just a passing mood.
Suddenly there was a stir at the door. Voices raised, there was a scuffle, and then she pushed her way through. Even he was surprised. It was not her way to make a scene in public.
Her eyes locked on his as she moved toward him silently. He could tell she had been crying, but there was a solid steadiness about her that he had never seen before. Her jaw was set stubbornly as she pushed through the thick silence that filled the room.
When she reached him she knelt to be even with his face. Two dozen pairs of eyes glared at her, challenging her right to be there, but the only ones she cared about were his. He hoped she could read in them the gladness that filled his heart at seeing her once more.
With a strength that gave elegance to her every move, she pulled out a small stone bottle and in one swift downward motion broke its fragile neck on the edge of the table.
A gasp filled the room, as a pungent aroma told guests all they needed to know about the contents of the vial, and its significance.
Silently she stood behind him and tipped the bottle. The perfume ran down his hair, his face, his beard. Pandemonium broke out in the room, as guests protested the impropriety of her actions. But the two of them remained unmoved, still in the middle of the storm.
When the last drop of the precious liquid had been poured out she stepped back. The bottle dropped to the ground and shattered as her shoulders sagged and her hands fell limp to her side. She seemed spent and unsure after such an extravagant display of love.
Voices raised in volume all around him, faces filled with scorn. For a moment the stench of fear that oozed from his companions overpowered the sweet fragrance of her gift—for she had dared to acknowledge and act upon a truth that they had all been desperate to deny.
He sprang to his feet to defend her, and although his words were addressed to those around him, they were for her alone. “She has done a beautiful thing. She has done what she could.”
He saw his words sink deeply into her soul. She smiled faintly at him even as her eyes brimmed with tears. He smiled back gently. Their good-bye had been said.
For the next three days, the fragrance of that gift had lingered, in his hair, on his clothes, in his heart. Something about it comforted him, gave him courage.
Now, in his darkest hour, he threw back his head and gulped the air again. Once more he inhaled that sweetness as he filled his lungs. He cried out. “It. Is. Finished.” His knees buckled and his body sagged as his head fell limp to his chest. Broken. Poured out. An extravagant display of love.
I sobbed upon hearing the details of his betrayal and agonizing death. I ached to have been there, to have provided even the smallest amount of comfort. I had done what I could but it was so insufficient.
I grieved for him as deeply as I had my brother, so dear was this man to my soul.
But then, just like my brother, once more he stood in front of me—whole, healthy, full of life and laughter. He assured me that I had been with him the whole time.
What a difference three days can make.
– – – – – – – –
*The timing indicated in this writing follows Mark’s account of Jesus’ last days (Mark 14:3–9). The identity of the woman as Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus is supported by John’s gospel.