I've been thinking about Grace this week. Not the spiritual kind, although there is certainly much to be said about that. I was thinking about my mother, Grace Elizabeth Murphy Joyce. Her birthday is January 15th. She would have been 96 had she not died at the relatively young age of 64. It hit me recently that I have now exceeded my mother's age by 5 years. Funny thing about the perspective of the young. I was 38 when she passed away and I remember thinking she was old. Not anymore.
My mother and I were close. I was the oldest of her four children and she would often confide in me. Looking back, I think she also enjoyed living vicariously through me. She begged me for details after every social gathering I ever attended. Whatever self-confidence I achieved I attribute to her. When I would come home after a party or game or dance she would ask, "So, who did you see who you liked better than yourself?" I would always laugh and proceed to tell her who said what, who wore what, and who was dating whom. It didn't occur to me until I was much older that she was trying to boost my emerging and awkward teenage ego and also let me know how much she loved me.
Grace was appropriately named. I recently checked Webster's definition of the word. Many of the synonyms described her beautifully: full of kindness, gentleness, benevolence, mercy. Of course, these qualities were very evident in her interactions with her family. She hugged us, encouraged us, imbued us with her love of education and, most importantly, helped us believe in ourselves and who we could become. She did all this with grace, loving us unconditionally.
This virtue called grace also carried over into her profession. Grace was an R.N. and spent her whole career in the Maternity Ward. She loved helping new mothers and they loved her. They would request her for all their subsequent babies and she gained quite a wonderful reputation. On many occasions her four kids would hear raves from her patients who were often our friends' mothers or neighborhood moms or, as we aged, our friends. It made us all so proud to have a mom that so many people thought so highly of.
In our large extended family my mother was the go-to gal for all the aunts when any of the 17 cousins had a fever or rash or injury, no matter how insignificant. With sincere concern she would calmly and professionally give expert advice. Almost without exception, the following day she’d receive a heartfelt thank you with a report of a much improved patient.
Naturally, as is the case with all of us in this condition called humanness, Grace battled demons. Some she defeated. Some defeated her. That does not matter here. Ultimately, she is remembered by all who knew her well as the epitome of her name.
On your birthday week, Mom, I send you back some of the love you so generously poured out on all of us. I aspire to your GRACEfullness.
By Nancy Joyce