Sunday, January 15, 2006

Talitha Cumi

I was moved (again!) by Amanda's post. It reminded me of a poem I have in a book ....
Lazarus was heavy but she, little sister,
When he spoke to her softly in the common speech
She sat up beckoned by his little finger
Puzzled to be present at so important a levée.

They gave her milk to drink in her usual bowl.
Her lip took a white moustache. She made
Crumbs on the counterpane thoughtfully breaking bread.

From "Talitha Cumi", Noel Connor & Others, Bloodaxe 1983

Why do I find this so moving? I think it is probably because the story of Jairus's daughter is one of the most moving in the whole Bible. Here is a dad who is distraught because there is nothing he can do to save his little girl - even though he is prepared to give up all his credibility in the eyes of the world to fetch Jesus - a dad who has to wait, desperate to move on whilst Jesus deals with compassion and gentleness with a woman who is considered perpetually unclean because of her illness. And as they get near home, he is told that after all this, it is too late.

But not too late for Jesus.

I've known various children who have died - probably as many as I have known young adults - though none that I was terribly close to. I can echo Theoden's words in the film of "The Lord of the Rings" - "No parent should have to bury their own child." - a quote in turn picked up from a mother in the Troubles of Northern Ireland - which, to close the circle, was one of the influences for the book containing the poem I quoted. The fact that Jesus was able to turn that awfulness back is reason enough on its own for people to put their faith in him.

But what moved me about this poem was the mundanity of it - the fact that whilst Jesus is working with the cosmic forces of life and death, the parents are told to give the girl something to eat - and, in this poem, she drinks and eats, just like all children do - fascinated by her senses, as all children are. Life, childhood, sensation are so precious and beautiful, so fleeting.