For Easter season, I usually post a poem I wrote about the good thief, something that I later turned into a song. In the gospel of Matthew, the thieves crucified with Christ deride him. In Mark’s gospel they are not mentioned at all. Luke gives the longest version with one thief mocking Christ and the other asking that Jesus remember him when he comes into his kingdom. John only acknowledges their presence. Luke’s account is likely meant to re-affirm the importance of the crucifixion.
What I have always missed whilst trying to be clever, is a more important message. That of a father’s love for his son, Here’s a story about that very thing.
I have been wearing this crucifix around my neck for maybe 40 years. It was a gift from my father, a talented man who designed it and then turned it over to a silversmith to create. At one point in his life, my father had been a draftsman, but I always remember him as being multi-talented. He was a pretty good basketball player in his day, leading his high school basketball team to a state championship. He could draw some, play a little piano and could tell the worst jokes but deliver them so well that even the stale ones were funny. He did all of these things well enough to make a living at them, but he understood that his calling was a to be a parent. To raise a family.
The image on the crucifix is a simple drawing. Faceless, the body’s head, arms, torso and legs are segmented, but completely original. It is made of the finest silver and I had my mother solder a larger loop on top and get me a sturdy chain so that I would never lose it. My father gave the same crucifix to both of his sons, but not to his daughters. I think maybe because the cross is fairly large and not at all elegant, about an inch and a half in length and an inch across. The crossbeams are a quarter of an inch wide and the silver itself is thick and sturdy. My brother never wore his. Said it was too heavy. I can understand. He had his reasons for disagreeing with the Catholic Church.
For me, it is a reminder of my dad and how much he loved us, how much he cared for our souls. Both of his sons were disappointments to him, in different ways, but he never stopped loving us. He never stopped taking care of us until the day he died. He understood disappointment. He understood failure. He himself had failed many times.
There are times when this crucifix gets heavy for me too. Those times when I’m on my way to doing something wrong, telling a lie, being selfish or just mean. Sometimes I’ll give it a tug and remind myself how good my dad was. How disappointed he would be by my behavior. How much the wellbeing of all of his children meant to him.
It never leaves me. Never comes off my neck. It may at some point in the future, for a medical procedure or maybe if I have to get on a plane somewhere. Sometimes when I write, I’ll run my thumb along the face of it, contemplating my next line and thinking how my father didn’t quite understand what I wanted to do for a living. He always supported me in my choice of work, he just never quite understood it.
I’d like to be buried with this crucifix or maybe pass it along to my son or someone else I love very much. I’d like to think that it could make their life better as it has made my life better. I would like them to feel loved as I have felt loved.
Some people believe that the crucifix is a reminder of Christ’s death, that it only tells half the story. A Catholic thing. Some people say that an empty cross better represents Christ’s resurrection and victory over sin and death. But an empty cross, for me, doesn’t tell the story of how a father loved his children so much he sacrificed the thing he loved the most.
That was my dad. Giving his wayward children all that he had because he loved them so much.
Copyright 2022 by Jose Antonio Ponce