Poem: A Pierced Heart

"Nativity" by Brian Kershisnik, currently on display at the LDS Church History Museum in Salt Lake City.

“Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

I know I’m not the first mother to have a child with special needs, but sometimes my heart breaks over my baby who was born so perfect and later, at eight months old, developed a catostrophic form of epilepsy with a benign-sounding diagnosis of ‘infantile spasms.’ I have sobbed over prognostications and statistics for this disorder. Eventually, I find I am able to turn away from the statistics and the assessments and everything the specialists tell us and enjoy my smiling, laughing, loving toddler who is lucky enough to be doing so well and may beat the odds. But I cannot read Luke 2:35 without my heart breaking for Mary and empathizing with her. How different is this prophecy compared to the wonderful tidings Gabriel had brought her, giving promises of a son who would be a king with no end to his kingdom. How after all she had been through carrying a child that all her neighborhood knew was not her husband’s and bearing that shame in order to bring this holy light to the world, she would have wanted to hear something different about her dear baby. So in one of my moments of grief, when I began to fear that my son would not get the life I would have for him, I wrote this poem:

She had eight days
between the glory trumpet of angels,
humbled shepherd’s knee
and then the dreadful, persistent sword appeared
to hang over her days.

A day of celebration and fortunetelling
Did her heart yield and welcome the token,
whose expectations were not those in the hearts of other mothers
Her reward would be a pierced soul

I know this mother—
long before the cry in the wilderness
and Jordan’s dove
she baptized her son with her tears


Alisa is a professional adult educator and corporate manager who enjoys spending time with her husband and son.

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4 Responses

  1. Elisabeth says:

    Beautiful, Alisa.

  2. EBrown says:

    This is beautiful. And such a wonderful meditation on our Lady of Sorrows. Thank you.

  3. Jessawhy says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Alisa.
    This is beautiful.

  4. Deborah says:

    I think about that scripture a lot. The KJV puts it in parentheses — almost like a private aside to Mary, that in the world-changing events that are to unfold, her private world will also be pierced. This acknowledgement of a deeply private grief is painful and comforting to read. Painful to remember that even Bethlehem has the shadow of Gesthemene, comforting to think that one woman’s grief is as deserving of mention as a “world’s” rise and fall.

    Love to you, Alisa.

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