“He really was an enchanting person. In some way he was like the spiritual father of everybody…. It is hard to imagine Central Park without Charles Kennedy.” Marie Winn, author of Red-tails in Love, and close friend of Charles, remembering him after his death in October 2004

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Grace Abounds

Yesterday I returned to Colorado after spending sixteen days in Iowa, staying with Dad, making the daily jaunts with him to support Mom in the hospital. The events of the past week have me clicking to Webster's online to make sense of what has been all around me: Grace. An ancient, complex word and concept with roots as deep as Sanskrit. Grace is defined in terms of human behaviors and as a divine gift. It's as elegant and potent a construct a we have in our language, right up there with love, truth, justice, and beauty.

Selected bits about grace from Webster:

-unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration  
-disposition to or an act or instance of kindness
-ease and suppleness of movement or bearing
-the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful

Selected scenes from the past week:

*My mom, intuitively and often playfully, making medical staff at ease with her by expressing her gratitude and reaching out for core connections with each of them: family, vocation, interests, passions. 
*Nearly every medical staff person walking through her door with clear intention to have a healing encounter, and perhaps even more profound, with receptiveness to meet my mom where she is and accept the intention of her overtures. Highly-trained medical staff exercising physical and emotional gentleness and attentiveness to Mom's needs moment-to-moment. Consulting Mom on whether she is ready to go for a walk or to be examined or to be stuck with another sharp object- and deferring to her when possible.  
*My wife, the lovely Deb, calling me from our home in Colorado on Saturday to say that our beloved 18-year-old cat, Ella, had reached an irretrievable state of distress and frailty. Expressing her concern about having to go alone for Ella's last trip to the vet, but going solo with her anyway because of Ella's need and Deb's love for her.  And for many weeks prior, Deb was always responding to Ella's needs, adapting the house to demands of the cat's condition, and staying close to her.
*And then there was the veterinarian: putting Deb at ease by telling her about her current 'dance' with her own elderly and ill cat, providing a special blanket for Deb in which to hold Ella in comfort on her lap, and then sitting on the floor in front of Deb and Ella, so that their last moments together might be just like their best moments at home.

I believe I was witnessing, and hearing from Deb about, grace. Images of washing another's feet come to mind. The experience or gift of grace seems to grow from the fertile ground of practicing basic human kindness and service. Or, maybe: 'Grace behaviors' beget 'grace, the gift.' Or, perhaps: To act with grace is to create the experience of grace for the other and self. My friend, Rev. Bill Calhoun, speaks of the "grace margins" that exist in the paper-thin space between our separate selves––the potent place where need, pain, suffering, love, care, and healing meet when one party makes a "grace move" toward another. In the major spiritual traditions, humans are asked to intentionally make themselves evermore in tune with, and in service to, the other.

I don't remember having a conversation with Charles about grace. In his avowed atheism, Charles would not have believed in "the unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration."  However, he believed deeply, based on the best of literature, philosophy, art, science, nature, and experience that people could create––and absolutely should create––the space and consciousness for the kind of love and healing that I have been witnessing. He practiced it and I know he would be gratified––and not surprised–– by how it is playing out in lives of people he loved. 



TwoSpecialWires said...

Steve. You have a faithful follower here. Thank you for alerting us to your blog post. In the hustle and bustle of everyday activity, we'll admit to easily and often losing track of many of the most touching and meaningful opportunities to stop and think and be influenced by the people around us. Your blog does just those things. And we appreciate it. As we appreciate you. And your words. We are glad to be reminded that you are here.

Peace and love to all of you. All of your family.
the person behind the TwoSpecialWires

Billie Jo said...

Heartfelt thanks, Steve, for this message and sharing of intimate details. If we are not kind, what are we?

Nice to be reminded.

Best Always,
billie jo

Steve Kennedy said...

Thanks so much, you TwoSpecialWires and that person behind you. :-) I've enjoyed your travelogue this summer. I'm glad we've gotten connected.

Steve Kennedy said...

And to Billie Jo- Thanks for your affirmation. Maybe it's an Iowa thing (the veterinarian is an ISU grad). As hard as it's been to watch my mom be so ill, she and the people around her have been a blessing. I'm glad we're staying in touch! steve

Craig said...

Thoughtful, comfortable reflections on what we hold dear. Thanks for sharing.

Steve Kennedy said...

Thanks, Craig. It has been quite a month.