Saying Goodbye

I fell in love with this painting when I saw it. It is titled Our Lady Says Farewell to Christ and was painted by a Polish artist named Piotr Stachiewicz. It shows the tender moment when Jesus says goodbye to his mother and begins his public ministry. She strokes his hair and he kisses her right hand. A demonstration of the love and gratitude mutually shared between a mother and a son. Jesus’ walking staff and water flask lie nearby, ready to be picked up and taken on his journey. A bird looks up, taking in the moment, and Joseph stands quietly in the background.

One of the things I love about art is that it can help us look at a situation with a new or different understanding. This scene of Jesus saying goodbye to his mother is not described anywhere in the Bible, yet the artist helps us imagine what it may have been like. I can connect emotionally to this work because I recall the goodbyes I said to my children as they flew the nest. Elizabeth Stone said this about having children: “It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” If you are a parent, you know the truth to this statement. And even if you aren’t a parent, you understand this sentiment—for to love anyone is to be vulnerably connected to their sorrows and their joys.

Jesus knew that this journey he was embarking on would eventually lead him to Jerusalem and to his death. For Mary, Jesus was her heart walking around outside her body.

Being Human connection: The tenderness of this scene is a reminder that to love is to be vulnerable. Deep mourning is the result of great love. And like death, mourning is a fact of life. A hard reality we cannot escape. Yet we know that our Lord understands our sorrows because he lived them as well. Jesus was “a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief” (Isaiah 53:3). He is even familiar with the pain of saying goodbye to his mother.

Featured art: Piotr Stachiewicz, Our Lady Says Farewell to Christ, 1894, National Museum of Krakow