On June 17, 2013, my mother and I claimed Grace Day. I hope it sticks. It seems like with all the other associated days of the year to commemorate something or to support a cause, humorous or serious, there should be a Grace Day.
Mark your calendars, folks: June 17 is Grace Day.
What is grace?
My Thesaurus says:
charm, loveliness, balance, beauty, benevolence, blessing, charity, comeliness, compassion, decency, dignity, ease, elegance, finesse, forgiveness, form, generosity, goodness, good will, kindness, leniency, love, mannerliness, pardon, pleasantness, pliancy, poise, polished, refinement, reprieve, smoothness, symmetry, tact, tastefulness, tenderness, thanks, thanksgiving.
I’ve bolded the words that particularly resonate with me. Not surprisingly these are the words that also represent the other reason for Grace Day — to honor my maternal grandmother Elenor Grace Piper, who was called Grace from childhood on and who my brothers and I called “Mom.” (Not a very clear distinction from an outsider’s perspective, I know. Our own mother Ann, we call “mother” or “mom,” but not the capital M “Mom.” But in families you understand and feel the distinct differences in speech and know when the call for “mom” is for mother and the mention of “Mom” is for grandma, for Grace.)
Other characteristics of Grace, my grandmother:
witty, reserved, progressive, feminist, strong, supportive, scholarly, dedicated, empathetic, loving, practical, clear, graceful
So you see the importance of having a Grace Day on the calendar, right? All of these grace-full attributes to honor and celebrate?
June 17 was also the day my mother and I spread some of my grandmother’s ashes in the Pacific ocean off of Maui. We had planned on having this pilgrimage in March of 2008, a year after she died, but my father fell ill and was in the hospital for stage 4 kidney cancer surgery. We canceled our trip without a thought and spent the next five months taking care of my father until his passing on August 12 of that same year.
Most of my grandmother’s ashes are in Spokane with my grandfather, but my mom had some of the ashes sent to her for a Maui ocean ceremony. This year, my mom said, “Let’s do it. Mom’s been waiting,” and so we headed to Maui for 9 days. We separated Grace’s ashes into two ziplock baggies and took to Black Rock on Ka’anapali Beach with our snorkel gear and 24-shot underwater camera in the morning before too many swimmers, snorkelers, and rock jumpers arrived.
Flashes of 2009 were clearly in our hearts as we also remembered our 2009 pilgrimage to spread some of my father’s ashes in this very spot in the very same way. My grandmother and father were close in their own quiet, powerful way and we knew that their mingling remains was the perfect way to honor both of them.
When we spread my father’s ashes in 2009, we had a very private ceremony underwater. There were no swimmers or other snorkelers and we had a very sparse blue underwater palate for the letting go. The ashes turned silver and golden as the morning sunlight filtered through the water. It was like pixie dust. It was luminous. My father had come home.
Here’s what happened for Grace’s underwater ceremony on June 17:
On a very logical, pragmatic level, I surmise that the fish thought our opening of plastic bags was misinterpreted as feeding time — that we had brought them fish food (something that is no longer allowed in these waters, but must be a stealthy continued practice).
On a spiritual level, here’s what happened: dozens and dozens of fish arrived as soon as we opened the bags and released the ashes. Even though no food was released, the fish stayed with us. They circled us, swam through the silvery ashes, and even opened their mouths to take in our Grace dust. Even after we finished releasing all the contents from our bags, the fish lingered, as if they were welcoming my grandmother to their home. It, too, was luminous.
Here’s to Grace: my mother’s mother, my grandmother, a counselor and social worker, a devoted wife to my grandfather Homer and caretaker to his twin brother Henry. Here’s to the memory of our many trips to Maui (three generations of women who could actually get along together). Here’s to care, kindness, wit, and dignity.
How have YOU experienced grace in your life? What does grace look like and feel like to you? Perhaps you could write about grace or finger paint grace or garden grace or dance grace. How does it manifest for you?
in peace and silvery dust,