The Grace of Community
Community, a collection of kind, understanding and supportive people, is a beautiful thing; don’t you think? Check out what Parker Palmer, author, activist and teacher, has to say: “Community is a place where the connections felt in our hearts make themselves known in the bonds between people, and where the tuggings and pullings of these bonds keep opening our hearts.”
Ah, those “tuggings and pullings” . . . they are important when darkness surrounds us. Just think about yourself for a minute: losing something really precious seems to send your heart in upon itself; it’s as if we demand it to sew closed any broken places as quickly and tightly as possible. But I discovered sewing only makes the heart’s holding spaces smaller. We pucker inside. The wisdom of community asks that instead we take a breath and hold our hearts open a while, shift toward the light, and listen to some gentle reminders: you don’t have to be alone in the dark; others who are only a heartbeat away want to support you; broken open can mean more room to hold stuff . . . like hope and grace and love. You’re right – it does take work and trust to wait for those jagged edges around our broken places to soften enough for others to know they’re welcome, but grace-filled connections are transformational and well worth the prep time.
This month’s story carries the search and find mission of parents whose healing often centered around discovering and connecting within community: with those who love them; those who came to know and understand their loss; and those who gladly continue to lovingly walk with them. In Zach’s Lasting Legacy, a toddler’s parents share the importance of opening to the support of each other, as well as to communities outside themselves. Here are excerpts of Zach’s story; the full story can be found at www.janenicoletauthor.com.
“ . . . Grief reveals you,” Kristin states, sharing a favorite thought from John Green’s The Fault in our Stars. Through his short lifespan, Zach established an indelible love-filled legacy for his parents and their eventual family. His ongoing bequest has been grief’s revelation through the life choices of his parents. “I’ve changed in almost every way imaginable . . . and it’s sad in some ways and hopeful and transformational in other ways.” . . .
“As a way to continue reclaiming hope in the midst of old memories and a growing, busy family life, the couple maintains involvement with Compassionate Friends as well as remains a helping presence in the organization of local Candlelight Vigils. “It’s like giving back,” Larry comments. The support they first felt over 20 years ago is offered today through this loving tradition, a tangible gift Larry and Kristin humbly and happily provide to parents, who like themselves, have lost a child. Grief continued to reveal itself by fueling Kristin to answer a call - acting on opportunities to offer her own natural gifts of understanding, intuition and loving service to others. In 2008, with two other women, she was instrumental in the creation of a local support group for bereaved parents named 3 Hopeful Hearts. She labels it incredible work and finds herself consistently touched by parents who courageously transform their own grief through authentically sharing their understanding of life and death with one another, forming mentoring partnerships, and allowing themselves to welcome moments of real joy.
. . . “I’m reminded of another John Green line from The Fault in our Stars: “That’s the thing about pain; it demands to be felt.” Grief calls forth its pain to make demands from those who live within it, and the transformation of that same grief is revealed through their life choices. Its demands can buckle a fence beyond redemption, or its reclaiming, revealed decisions can brace that same fence so strongly that no matter the wind velocity, grief can only leave scars. Kristin points out the kitchen’s sliding glass door toward a fence that is braced with a series 2x4’s and makes the comparison that she and Larry are like that fence; we’re not pretty but we’re still standing. The neighbors don’t see this side of the fence – of us; people don’t know what it’s like – what we’ve been through, she continues. Even though she can’t be a new fence, Kristin recognizes, without a doubt, she is standing because of her own supports: her kids, special friends and Larry – “Larry braces me,” she affirms. She and Larry look out at the scarred and supported fence that shields and separates their home from others, then turn slightly and smile knowingly at each other.”
Kind, supportive and understanding connections, a community, with all its tuggings and pullings, is indeed a thing of Grace.