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.