I heard a story this week told by a friend from India who has served as a missionary there, in her home country, for many years. As we talked she was reminded of a time, decades ago, when some refugees were given an opportunity to walk from Burma to Calcutta.
The plan for this escape was very demanding. Protective sites were set up every 20 miles. Preservation of life was dependent on completing the 20 miles each day, as there was not refuge between these sites. The tiger infested jungle was a death sentence after dark.
One family with small children faced a chilling challenge. The mother developed a high fever and was too sick to walk. The father then carried her but the weight of carrying his wife slowed his pace. Together, this couple realized that they would not make the 20 miles to safety.
The mother asked the father to leave her on the grass. She said we can’t both die. Someone needs to live and take care of the children (who had run ahead). The father said he couldn’t leave her but the wife insisted.
Finally, he laid her on the grass and ran to catch up with the children.
His heart wouldn’t let him leave her there so he turned around and came back. She again insisted he go. After several attempts to change his wife’s mind the man left her and eventually arrived in Calcutta with the children.
He sought out the husband of the missionary telling me this story and told the story to him.
The grief stricken man told the story and he cried.
As I waited for my storyteller to continue she said nothing more.
Finally, I said, “Is that the end of the story?”
She said, “Yes.”
Somehow, as Americans, we think everything should have a Cinderella ending. I wanted to hear that an angel had picked the mother up and that she was waiting, healed, in Calcutta.
I wonder where I got these expectations? What do I do with John the Baptist being beheaded? (He was great in the eyes of Jesus.) How do I reconcile Jesus having no place to grieve this death because he had compassion on the crowds?
The end of this story from my friend in India is, “And he cried.”
Is this the end of the story?