Just the other day, I was talking to a friend who is adjusting to life as her husband recuperates from a stroke. Yikes! As you can imagine, she was overwhelmed. She was navigating the ins and outs of supporting her husband’s recovery, relearning how to cook with a new and more restrictive diet, and somewhere amidst it all, her two young girls were looking for their mommy to feed them, hug them, and nourish their souls. But all that my sweet friend wanted to do was curl up and cry. Who can blame her!
I certainly can’t blame her at all!
But here’s the punch line in our brief conversation via text message… Looking for answers, inspiration, or maybe just a fleck of hope, she asked me how I handled my own life with such Grace.
Ha! I’m still laughing. Grace. Seriously, I’m crying in fits of laughter.
You see, I’ve been working for 15 years on Grace. Maybe it’s been 41 years. Who’s counting, anyway?
When our son was diagnosed with Infantile Spasms at 6 months old, Grace wasn’t even part of my vocabulary. The tears pouring down my face, my eyes poured over medical texts, research, test results, anecdotal stories from other parents, and everything I could find about how to help my son. The tears never dried, they just ran out. The feelings of pain, helplessness, guilt, fear, anger, never gave way to Grace or patience or hope back then. They raged, waxing and waning, as my energy levels would allow. But oh, they raged on.
Years went by. My son experienced reprieves from constant seizures only to have another wave of neurological trauma crash over him and the rest of us. There were good days even happy moments when the days were darkest. Joy was messy. Never clean cut. And never long-lasting.
But eventually, I began to find joy in those good days. His first words, his first arm farts, his absolute love of running, jumping, and pounding anything into whatever he could; it was all a joy to see and to experience firsthand as the mother of the boy they said would never talk, never walk, never attend school, and never find what we know as a normal childhood.
Some days were bad. Very, very bad. His second birthday when he had his first tonic seizure and lost consciousness. The night his friend slept over only to awaken with Ted mid-seizure convulsing having fallen out of bed. The day we met with his teachers only to discover how little they understood about his condition. Everyday I see his eyes heavy with neuro-fatigue, his speech slowed, and his head shifting to the side is a bad day.
Those days bring my blood to boil. Anger, hopelessness, sadness, exhaustion. Yes, I can say wholeheartedly that Grace was never part of my operating procedure. Not even once.
So, what is it that my sweet friend sees that she thinks is Grace? (Still, I’m laughing at this thought!)
If I really think hard about it…
She sees me laugh. She sees me hug and kiss my kids (and every baby that crosses my path). She sees me putting dinner on the table for my family and then opening my door to many more friends. She sees me making jokes, dancing, and chasing toddlers while making monster noises. She sees me charting course to pursue my own dreams. She sees me hold my husband’s hand, everyday tighter than we used to hold each other because we’ve worked hard to be better to each other. She sees me clean (okay, that’s a lie. She only sees that my house is clean because I’ve hired someone!) She sees me read. She sees me write. She sees me play. She sees me work. She sees me living life.
And she sees me smile. Often the smile is accompanied by a glimmer in my eye. Is it sadness? Sometimes it’s hope. Fatigue is always a good bet. But there are moments of joy.
There are many moments of joy.
So maybe Grace is simply the act of living. The beauty of which is seen only when the act of living is pure, unplanned, honest, and yes… messy.
Yes, I think that’s my Grace. Messy but pure. Unplanned but honest. It’s real. And its value comes from the tarnish not necessarily the polish. Its beauty from the moments of joy that are strung together and broken apart then pieced together over and over and over again.
This is my Grace. And I’m thankful she sees it.