There are several definitions of “grace;” they range from a sense of propriety to charming behavior, from a divine virtue to a prayer before a meal. Grace can mean a musical trill, or an act of kindness. To me, Grace will always be my mother’s name, and the legacy she left me of living a life filled with light, and love.
I wrote about her final gift to me one Christmas long ago in a blog post called Christmas with Grace. I have the love-worn and gently aging quilt that she made with her own steadily weakening hands in her last months with us. It is one of my most treasured possessions. Because we said goodbye to her in December, this month always brings the most poignant memories flooding back to me, and sometimes, more magical opportunities to remember her.
On a cold Christmas Eve several years ago, I needed some last minute items from the grocery store before they closed, and had quickly done my shopping. As I was hurrying to my car, I noticed an elderly woman standing alone, holding a bag. She looked like she was waiting for someone, and I hesitated before stopping at her side. I didn’t want to bother her, but I had a feeling that something was wrong.
“Hello,” I said to her. “I noticed that you’re waiting here alone. Is everything all right? Can I be of any help?”
She looked at me, and now I could see the worry on her face. “Oh, everything’s fine,” she told me. “It’s just that I don’t drive anymore, and I had called for a cab, and it doesn’t seem to be coming. Maybe if I just wait a little longer…”
Snow was falling, beginning to accumulate on the sidewalk and parking lot. The roads were not in good shape, and surely would be getting worse.
“I’m heading home and would be happy to drive you,” I told her. “Do you live nearby?”
She nodded, and said, “Only a few blocks, but I can’t impose on you. I’m sure the cab will be here soon.”
I started to walk away, but I wasn’t at all sure the cab would arrive soon, or at all. I turned back toward her. “Please, it’s not an imposition–at all. Let me help you. I’d like to.”
She peered at the quiet street, watching the swirling snow, then finally said, “All right, then. If you’re sure…”
I helped her into the car and soon we were turning from one dark and slippery street onto another, until at last we reached a small home in an older neighborhood. There was a light left on over the front door, but the rest of the windows were dark. I hated to leave her there alone.
“Can I help you in with your bag?” I asked her. “I can help you get the lights on before I go.”
Suddenly I could see alarm in her eyes. She was an elderly woman, living alone, and she didn’t know me. She stammered nervously, reaching for the door handle. “Oh, no no no, I can do it myself. Really. I appreciate your help so much, but I’ll be fine–”
I knew she was anxious, so I didn’t press her. She gathered her things and had one foot out the door when I said, “Wait–I don’t know your name!”
She looked at me, and smiled. “Grace. It’s Grace.”
The walkway was white with snow, and she took her time on her way to the door. I remained in the driveway with my headlights on until I saw her safely inside.
Grace. Her name was Grace. I turned on the radio, just as “O, Holy Night,” began to play. It was a peaceful night, and I felt warmth spreading from my heart all throughout my body, as if I were being held by someone, as if I were being embraced.
There are mysteries in life, things I can’t always understand, and things I can’t explain. But there are other things that I feel with a sureness that defies any logic that might explain away what I know to be true in the world:
We all have angels of our better nature, and angels by our side on earth who are our friends and family, just like the family I had waiting at home for me that night. And sometimes, there are angels around us who we feel rather than see. For me, there will always be one angel in particular who I am reminded of each Christmas.
Her name is Grace.