Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sacrament of Grace

I hurried out of my house one morning last week, running just a little late as usual. But as I rounded the end of my car, I caught my breath at the sight of this newly blooming flower, and I remembered.

These flowers had grown in clumps along the banks of the little creek that meandered through my parents' 4-acre, East Texas homestead over 20 years ago.  Mother had been so enamored by the bloom that she dug up a few clumps and replanted them in the flowerbeds by the back door, where they sat for years, never even once blooming again.

Years passed.  Mother lost the love of her life and soul mate, and with the loss of my daddy, she lost her identity as pastor’s wife, and her place in the small country church they pastored. 

She suffered other losses, too, her parents and friends. Then she began losing her eyesight and was diagnosed with macular degeneration. Later still, that same summer she was diagnosed with breast cancer and scheduled a radical double mastectomy that Fall. After surgery, numerous rounds of chemotherapy brought another loss. She stood one morning in front of her bathroom mirror in tears as her beautiful thick wavy hair fell in clumps around her shoulders and onto the floor.

That was it.  The dam broke.  She seldom cried, but that was the last straw, and the tears flowed, as well as the fear and anger, as she cried out to God. Why was this happening? Why couldn’t she just die? There really wasn’t a reason left to live. Couldn’t he just take her home and let her be done with it? What was the point?

Finally wrung out from the questions and the tears, she bent and swept the clumps of hair into a dust pan. She headed toward the back yard to toss them into the burn pile, but stopped in her tracks when she opened the back door.

They had finally bloomed! Goodness, after all these years, and on this morning when she was filled with so much grief, they bloomed.

My priest called it a “sacrament of grace”. That’s what it was – grace poured down from heaven filling her heart and the world around her with newness of life, a kind of resurrection. 

She sat on the stoop, letting the dust pan and the clumps of hair slip from her hands.  All she had left was “Thank You.”

That next Spring, she sold her house with its 4 acres and its creek that meandered through, but she and I dug up that clump of flowers and brought them here to our little piece of heaven on the Gulf Coast.

The amazing part of the story is that they’ve never failed to bloom since we’ve planted them here eleven years ago. Better still, they’ve always bloomed within a week of her birthday. Tody was the 19th of July.  Two days ago, I didn’t even notice the plant, but tomorrow we would celebrate her 84th birthday with cake and ice cream. The flowers remember better than I do.

“And yes,” I smiled, “it’s all about grace.”