The Gospel of Mary and Motherly Love
Started on January 18, 2019
Electronically published on February 14, 2019
Posted with permission from Julia Davis and deep reverence for her commitment to love and faith.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
This is a story that references Christian scripture, but it is not a story about Christian scripture. This is a story about community, love, grace, and the devastating and beautifully orchestrated symphony of chaos that is the Universe.
On Sunday, January 13, 2019 at 1:22 AM, 23-year-old Nathan Davis died at UT Medical Center.
Nathan died from injuries sustained in a car accident involving a drunk driver. He had been hospitalized in the Trauma Surgical Intensive Care Unit at UT for several days preceding his death.
I had kept casual contact with his mother, Julia, since we had both left our jobs at Norris Academy, though I had not seen her in nearly six months. When she posted on Facebook what had happened, I knew, without a doubt, that I needed to be there with her.
I was not alone. At the hospital that Thursday morning, I was greeted by Julia and some of her family, as well as another former coworker from Norris. As we spoke, Julia revealed some of the challenges Nathan was up against and remained steadfastly hopeful. When speaking of the accident and Nathan’s friend who had been driving, she said, “I know he’s hurting, and I’m going to love both of them through it.”
When I returned to the hospital that Saturday, a much larger crowd had gathered.
Like the shepherds and wise men who followed a shining star to find a holy infant, small and vulnerable in the night, so did we fellow travelers, guided by phone calls and intuition, find ourselves congregated in UT Medical Center for a solitary purpose.
Things were not looking good. Soon after I arrived, one of Nathan’s aunts told the group, “If you’re here, it’s because you’re supposed to be.”
As the day wore on, Nathan’s condition became more critical. The constant stream of prayers being offered shifted from prayers of hope that beseeched God for a miracle to prayers for a gentle passing and comfort for his family.
After the birth of Christ, his mother, Mary, was visited by shepherds who offered praise and thanks to her child. Luke 2:19 says, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
As she pondered these praises, I do not suspect that Mary, even with everything she had experienced so far, cared primarily that her son was said to be Divine. I suspect she cared that he was warm, that he was well fed, that he was surrounded by good friends and that he knew he was loved. Even though she was said to be the Mother of God, she was also simply a mother, charged with the same task as any mother: to care for and nurture her child to the best of her ability.
Though Mary did not get much choice in the matter, her sacrifice would change history.
Parenting always includes sacrifice, no matter how one comes into it or goes about it. This sacrifice goes along with a pure, unconditional, and selfless love known as agape love -the highest form of love. This is the love that leads social change, the love that sent pregnant women diving from the sides of slave ships, the love that is the foundation of Dr. King’s Beloved Community, the love that moved Julia to say again of the drunk driver who caused Nathan’s fatal injuries, just hours before her son’s death: “I’m going to love him through it.”
In the hallway to the TSICU, Julia spoke of how God came to her during prayer and told her that Nathan would be restored. She initially believed that he would make a full recovery, and later realized that the revelation meant he would be restored beyond the Earthly realm. When one of her nephews told her to keep hope, she responded, “My hope’s not on this Earth.”
As Mary stood at the foot of the cross where her son was crucified, Jesus called upon his cousin and disciple, John, to care for her as he would his own mother. It is theorized that Jesus chose John to care for his mother because when he was resurrected, he would first show himself to the disciples. Therefore, if his mother was with them, she, too, would know as soon as possible that he had been restored.
Between the accident and his death, it was discovered that Nathan was a registered organ donor.
In the face of imminent and devastating tragedy, a flicker of hope began to form; Nathan’s father, Luther, had been in need of a new kidney for several years.
Two days after Nathan’s death, his father received one of his kidneys via transplant. The kidney was functioning less than one hour after the completion of surgery – and Julia was among the first to receive the good news.
Just as Jesus of Nazareth miraculously turned water into wine, Nathan Davis turned his own death, a devastating loss and tragedy, into a hope and gift that has impacted countless lives – the lives of the six people who received his organs, and the lives of the family and friends of those six people. This gift is nothing short of a miracle.
In my religious tradition, we affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all beings. In my personal spiritual practice, I affirm the Divine nature of all beings. I believe that this story shows the Divine nature of this family, and the potential for all of us to live in such a way.
This story shows the incredible power of selfless love – the selfless love of Nathan to donate his organs, the selfless love of his mother to hold the drunk driver in compassion, the selfless love of their network of family and friends to commit to loving them through this tragic and beautiful time.
This selfless love is not exclusive. It is abundant and readily available to any who wish to embrace it. May we all seek and find it as we navigate this carefully orchestrated symphony of chaos together.
“In the flash of hate and terror
In the sinful lie of fear
There’s a yearning deep in ev’ry soul
A longing to hear:
Love has already won, love has already won
Just as sure as the day greets the morning sun
Love has already won, love has already won
Be not afraid, love has already won”
-Rev. Jason Shelton, Love Has Already Won