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  • Kimberlee Runnion

The Prodigal Son

The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11–32) always leaves a bit to be desired for me…at least with traditional interpretations. Depending on which character we "side" with, we may feel a sense of jealousy or betrayal; we may see the father as compassionate and merciful or as unfair and even neglectful. We might even ask, where is the mother?


In one of my courses this semester, we were given the opportunity to take the essential plot points of the prodigal son and rewrite them. This was my retelling.


There once was a woman who lived on the farm she had inherited from her parents. She was married, and she and her husband had two sons. When her sons were teenagers, the woman was diagnosed with a terminal illness. As her health deteriorated, she began to divide her possessions among her two sons.


Seeing his mother fade before his eyes, the younger son took his possessions and left home, for he could not bear to see his mother die. The father called his younger son repeatedly and begged him to return home, but the younger son always answered, “I just don’t want to remember her like that.”

The older son stayed on the farm. He cared for his mother’s land, tended to the sheep—his mother’s favorites of their animals—held his mother while she died, and wept with his father when his mother’s body was carried away by the funeral home.

When it came time for the funeral, the father called his younger son once again and asked him to come home. The younger son agreed to return and even asked to speak at the funeral. His father said he could.

At the funeral, the older son—overcome with grief—chose not to speak and instead sat silently weeping at the back of the sanctuary. The younger son spoke of his many memories of his mother, how she taught him to follow his own dreams, dreams that required him to leave the land that she loved, how her final words to him had been words of encouragement. All those in attendance spoke with the younger son following the service, asking about his new home, his new job, and thanking him for his words. No one was able to speak with the older son, for he had left immediately after the final hymn.

The father searched for his older son after the service and found him on the farm, bottle-feeding one of the new lambs. Through tears, the older son asked his father, “How could you let him speak? He took mere possessions from our mother and did God knows what with them! Now everyone thinks he’s so great, but he abandoned us when we needed him most. He left me to care for everything and everyone!”

The father embraced him and said, “My son, you and your brother inherited the best of your mother. You inherited her love of land, of groundedness, of this very lamb. Your brother inherited her adventurous spirit. You must not compare yourselves, your grief, or your love for your mother, for she lives in both of you.”

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