Prevenient Grace

Her name was Catherine and she was full of grace.  She danced when no one else would.  She’d kiss your hand, and pat your cheek at every introduction.  You were a most welcome friend to her regardless of whether she remembered your name, the day of the week, or the occasion of your “visit.”  She lived the smell of roses.  Her southern hospitality was the welcome of a rose-lined path.  As time went on, the confusion worsened, each fall took its toll in memory loss.  She’d set her jaw in a look of confusion as she sat alone.  But as soon as a friend walked up to her, she smiled, reached out with hand and a kiss.  Her love of people and apple fritters held out to the end.

That grace spilled over to her family.  Each of them was as welcoming and accommodating as Cathy.  Things that were done poorly were easily forgiven.  Shoddy care was not ignored by the family, but addressed and forgiven.  When her end-of-life was less than satisfactory, they still showed and spoke a grace that was hard to measure.  It was not a given, they understood where things could have been better, but it was a rising above that really called for thought on my part.

I was put in mind of a Free Methodist lesson that explained the difference between grace in church philosophy.  He described a chasm between  man and God.  Some believe that the chasm is automatically closed by belief in God.  The Free Methodist explained that prevenient grace was in the chasm, but it was not a given that it was automatically going to close the gap.  Man had to ask for the grace to carry him across.   It’s man’s realization of the chasm as well as the presence of God and of His grace that results in grace rising to fill in the chasm.  We have free will.

As professional  caregivers we can create many a chasm in our processes.  We have the choice to ignore the chasm and assume the family will understand or not realize; or we can explain our mistakes and ask for their grace.  In the case of Catherine’s family, grace was there for the asking.  That is a powerful message to the roots they’d developed.

Living the smell of roses—a worthwhile aspiration.

About Cate

Passionate about dementia care and quality of life throughout the last days of life----sums up Cate McCarty, Dr. Cate, Dementia Coach. With close to forty years of long-term care experience in nursing and recreation, a Master's in Thanatology and a PhD in Aging Studies, Dr. Cate seizes every opportunity to translate research into quality of life for individuals with dementia and all of us who have the honor to "rub elbows" with them.
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One Response to Prevenient Grace

  1. Marlee Faircloth says:

    Beautifully written. She really was a Southern Belle. Sounds like her family showed the same grace in her death as she did in life. What a beautiful tribute. To put it in writing is a memorial to her life and the analogy to God’s grace brought tears to my eyes because which of us in not in desparate need of His grace. Stories like these are fuel for the fire to try harder to meet the needs of our patients and to offer forgiveness to others when needed because we most assuredly will need it to be offered to us despite our best efforts. Way to see the silver lining in an otherwise dark cloud Cate.

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