Small Moments of Grace

This holiday season, my mom was diagnosed with brain cancer. Her tumor is inoperable and advanced, so she has decided against treatment. She is now actively dying. 

My mom has always been a sweet, endearingly charming, and, at times, maddeningly positive person. Throughout this ordeal, these delightful qualities have endured. Her essential nature is hanging on as she slips away. This is a blessing. She is beloved by everyone who works with her. They all gush about how nice and easy she is, how much she brightens everyone’s day. 

But the side that gave her sweetness depth is gone. We will never have conversations about politics, world events or anything philosophical. Her shameless cheating in cards, her sarcastic wit, her frankness; gone. 

I am grateful for the sweetness, but I miss the sour.

I mourn the person I didn’t know was leaving me. Parts of her were swept out of my life before I was ready. It is as if I donated a bunch of clothes but, now, after the van drove away, I am yelling, “Wait, wait, wait! I think my favorite sweater is in there! I need to look through that bag again!”

When my dad died, he was taken suddenly. It was an immediate wound. But this is like a bruise I keep re-injuring. It is a recurring, painful, ache. Each incremental loss needs to be mourned but, I also need to get to know the person she is now. This means mourning and celebrating at the same time. I have to find a way of holding her close, while simultaneously mourning the loss of the person she was. Sudden death robbed me of an opportunity to love. Slow death has given me an opportunity to love more. 

And that opportunity comes with responsibility. I have to be purposeful. If I am not purposeful, I could easily put my head in the sand and hide. I could easily just think “tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow” instead of today. The doctors say “months” and it feels like an invitation to drag my feet. As if denying the bruise with stop the pain when I smack it again. I have to get sharp with myself and say, “Hey! This thing is happening now!” and then I have to work on loving that person better than I did and being kinder to myself than I was. Because time is up.

We always have to ask ourselves. “Do I step up now, or do I hang back and hope?” Hanging back and hoping is not an option for me. It is a false hope. My mother chose to not take treatment. My job now is to honor her choice and do this living/dying thing with her.  

What I have learned thus far is that grace is often just this small little thing. It is seeing the sweetness in my mother and enjoying how pure and beautiful it is. It is in seeing the world through her eyes. Enjoying how she sees art and beauty in everything. It is seeing how much grace comes simply by being grateful, by seeing the best in people and expecting that they will do right by you. It is this small, daily dose of nativity and sweetness that is… encouraging.

Friends, I don’t have any decent advice here... Just a wish that you look for the small moments of grace in your day and embrace it. Empower yourself and others to be their very best, most loving self. You might be surprised at how well it goes.

I know I have been. 

With love,