My friend, whom I had never seen even close to tears, wiped at his eyes as we were finishing our interview. He’s been sitting across from me for about an hour, talking about his daughter, Marie. I had been paying close attention throughout, but the look on his face, the way he came to new life, striving to help me understand the significance of what he witnessed, brought my attention to another level. He wanted me to know that within the tender story he was sharing about Marie’s death lay a grace-filled moment, one that happened as his own mother was dying years later. He had gathered with others to say their final goodbyes to his beloved mother, Grace. And during those extraordinary moments, daughter, Marie, and Mother, Grace, met for the first time.
It was over a year ago when I began listening to others tell their stories of lost children. I found each parent interview, each situation and story, like Greg’s, unique and remarkable. Within their uniqueness also lived commonality: everyone interviewed lost a child at sometime within his or her life, and all, in their own way, longed to find and live into a space I call grace – a place of balance, compassion and peace. Greg, both surprised and grateful, discovered his own grace-filled space as he sat at his mother’s death bed, privileged to watch and listen as she was transported peacefully into her own place of grace.
Here’s an excerpt from Greg’s story that will appear in my upcoming book, A Patch of Blue: Reclaiming Grace. His story, Her Sweetest Gift, is posted in its entirety on my website: www.janenicoletauthor.com *
“ . . . Loved ones had been called in anticipation of Greg’s mother’s passing. They gathered together, spending time with her and each other, as they waited. Hours before her death, he remembers her excitedly calling out to the family – she was seeing someone or something she wanted them to witness with her. As they surrounded her, asking what she wanted them to look at, she indicated a space where no one stood. Looking at each other, they questioned her more. What were they supposed to be seeing? Who was there? Happy and alert, she smiled and joyously declared she was looking at Marie. Greg is quick to note that his mom had no trouble knowing who was physically present in the room; she recognized all the names and faces of her loved ones. Marie, as an unseen presence, neither frightened nor confused his mother. Instead it seemed to give her both joy and peace. Again tears fill Greg’s eyes as he recalls the beautiful memory of his mother finally coming face to face with the grandchild she never had the opportunity to meet. And, how amazing it is that this first meeting takes place when Marie’s father is in the room with them both. It has been said that when one is in the presence of real healing, there is a grace that hangs in that moment.
As we close the interview, I ask Greg to tell about something he would like to reclaim. From that space of grief that he inhabited for so long, what would he like to take back? He waits just a moment and then leans back in his chair. Quietly he lifts his hands and places them together near his heart. “Just hold her again,” he murmurs. “That’s what I know of her. That she would snuggle up to sleep right here,” he continues, gently moving the flat of one hand on his chest. We sit for another moment in silence, and I ask Greg what one last thing he might like to say about his daughter. He answers with loving assurance that his son would not have been born without Marie’s life. It is on this lovely idea of Marie’s sweetest gift that we end.”
Eckhart Tolle’s in Stillness Speaks states that in every disaster there is a seed of grace. Freeing ourselves to accept what we find unacceptable can be our greatest source of grace – that space of balance, forgiveness, compassion and rest. No matter what has happened to us or those we love, we have the opportunity to make grace our way of believing and behaving. Of course it’s hard work, but well worth the time and effort it takes to set grace as our true north, the compass point directing our individual journeys into and through the complex realms of both life and death.
* To read Greg’s full story, go to www.janenicoletauthor.com, click and hold on Books at the top of the home page to locate Parents Tell Their Stories.