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  • Courtney Ellis

I Think of the End . . . And Also

I think of the mothers.

I think of the children huddled in metro stations and the family that hosted my friend Sharece while she served in the Peace Corps. I think of the fathers weeping in anguish as they send their wives and children and elderly parents away, as they themselves stay to fight knowing that the resistance may be futile.

I think of President Zelenskyy signing off his February 24 conversation with EU leaders by telling them it would probably be the last time they saw him alive.

I think that he’s still alive as I write this, but none of us know what tomorrow holds.

I think of those who flee, their cars running low on gas, headed to the Polish border and an uncertain future. I think of those who stay because their parents are too frail to travel or their news station asked someone to work the cameras until their equipment is destroyed or their church needs its priest.

I think of Wendell Berry’s criteria for doing what is right: Will this disturb the sleep of a woman near to giving birth? I think of the maternity hospital bombed yesterday, of the woman, heavily pregnant, being carried through rubble.

I think of Henri Nouwen’s realization that “much of praying is grieving.”

It is not the end until we see the return of Christ flash as lightning across the sky.

I think of Matthew’s wars and rumors of wars, and his reminder that it is not the end until we see the return of Christ flash as lightning across the sky.

I think it would be good for him to come soon. I think maybe he has been delayed, that he missed the kindergarten and orphanage attacked by Russian troops, the thermobaric bombs, the cluster munitions, that surely now would be the right time for his return.

I think of a coworker whose aging parents live in Kyiv, of her pleas for them to leave last week and the week before. Of their insistence that they love their home and do not want to leave it. I think of their courage and their foolishness and their hope and their loyalty. I think of them watching the shelling and the slow realization that this—all of this—was really happening. I think of them packing up half a century into suitcases too impossibly small to hold the weight of memory, driving to the border, boarding a plane.

I think of our oldest child, nine years old, who pretended to sleep in the backseat next to his school friends as I drove them home with another parent, whispering about World War III and who has nuclear weapons. I think of the ways my own anxiety soaks like acid through his tender skin and into his heart.

I think of the woman we met in a sluggish theme park line, our kids asking if she spoke another language, hoping to show off their Spanish to her. I think of her pausing before whispering, “Russian.” I think of the woman behind us responding, “It isn’t a good time to be Russian,” the fear and hatred and tribalism infiltrating even the masked tourists waiting to ride The Secret Life of Pets.

All we can do is work toward readiness.

I think of my next book pitch waiting for a final polish before going to my editor and think, Is this the book I would want to write at the end of the world?

I think it’s actually always the end of the world for some of us, that we cannot know the day or hour of our own demise and all we can do is work toward readiness.

I think of Lent, just beginning, and its reminder that we are but dust.

I think of my own powerlessness and the impossible tenderness of each person.

I think of autocrats and bloodthirsty men and the evil they wield that will always turn on them, too, in the end.

I think of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem and Kharkiv and Odessa and Kyiv and Chernobyl. And Moscow. And Paris. And Washington, DC.

I think of Paul’s words that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. I do not think this is a metaphor.

I think of the fathers.

I think of the children.

I think of the mothers.

I cry to the Lord.


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