Historical setting: 563 CE, at the family cemetery of the old villa
“Brother Lazarus, her name was not Susannah; her name was Minerva.”
The familiar sound of Nic’s voice plundered my moment of reverence as I knelt at the grave to place the flowers I had gathered. What does he know of my error in memory? Where has he been these days?
I rise to my feet, and there he is with his same piercing and intended stare as when he found he had to accept that the recipient of his patronage was a Jew like Jesus. And now he has had to face a very strange dimension of identity of me, this person he has committed too. The last we saw each other he learned that I was indeed, as I had tried to tell him, the same man Lazarus who was Jesus’ own childhood friend. All these years I have lived with so many deaths and resurrections and clearly, I’m not the young monk he promised to support. I know the shock and disappointment sent him longing to soldier again. What can I say? What, even, can he say?
We are locked in our stare that I wish were a simple hand-clasp or pat on the back — any kind of welcome gesture to accept that it is what it is.
It’s not an easy resolution.
My gaze on his elder face must speak of my longing for his acceptance, because his eyes soften to empathy then he looks away.
I ask, “Do you mean I even remembered her with a wrong name?”
He answers, “I’ve heard the hero stories of that war, not just in Bragda, but here, at the monastery. And yes, she was known as Minerva. But I have to tell you Brother Lazarus, I’ve pondered the notion that your grief has many names and I expect when we find Susannah, she will have a golden braid of hair also.”
Dear God, thank you for such a friend as this. You must know my need for a friend. Amen.
Nic has given this his deepest thought. “Brother Lazarus, I wondered if my call was to be as Nicodemus, so that I would one day bring a heavy abundance of herbs and spices to a grave in grief for a younger man and spiritual guide, but now I understand it will be you who is left to grieve for me.”
“May it be many years my friend, may it be a long time we have for this friendship.”
(Continued Tuesday, October 6)