I have an afghan that my Grandmother Charlotte started to crochet and her neighbor and friend Mildred finished for her when she passed away. Iím not sure when my Grandmother started it or when Mildred resumed crocheting it, however, my Grandmother passed away in the summer of 1978 and I received it as a posthumous Christmas gift in 1979 at the tender age of 9. In fact, my Grandmother was crocheting (or had crotched at least in part) four different afghans for her four grandchildren and Mildred finished whatever my Grandmother had been unable to and made sure all of my Grandmotherís grandchildren received her last gift to us.
The thing that is wonderful about this afghan is the work is seamless. You cannot tell where my Grandmother left off and where Mildred began. The afghan is lovely as both my Grandmother and Mildred were skilled at crocheting. It is three different shades of purple (my favorite color unbeknownst to both women) all tightly fit together in a pattern. Itís been a part of my life for 31 years now and I plan to pass it down to my oldest daughter Rachel, who was born 11 years to the day after my Grandmother died: June 19th.
Three women I have loved have had their hands in crocheting that afghan. The first being my Grandmother who started it, the second being Mildred who finished it, and the third being my mother-in-law Kay who repaired it.
My Grandmother had to have been an incredibly gracious woman to undertake such a project for me. I was not a perfect grandchild. In fact, Iím pretty sure I was a horrible one! I was difficult, stubborn, and at times downright willful. I was bound and determined to be a tomboy and resisted all her attempts at doing me the much needed favor of teaching me how to be a lady. She truly must have loved me to spend the hours it must have taken to work on that afghan.
Mildred also had to have been incredibly gracious as well. I didnít know her well at the time, although she was always kind to me when I did see her and later on we did become more familiar with one another. She too must have spent hours on that last labor of love to pass onto me. And to do so not knowing if this willful and stubborn tomboy would even appreciate it was incredibly kind.
Then there is Kay who graciously repaired that afghan for a daughter-in-law she barely knew and under what I know to have been painful circumstances for her.
You see, when my daughter Rachel was born on the anniversary date of my Grandmotherís death, she was born with a birth defect called Spina Bifida. Her type of Spina Bifida was the most serious and life threatening. There was grave concern for her survival. She was put in the NICU and was to undergo two major surgeries (one to close her spine and one to insert a shunt into her brain) before she could come home.
Kay flew in during that time to help my husband and me out. We had been married barely a year. Neal was working full-time. I was barely 19 and a clueless first time mother spending up to 12 hours a day in that NICU by Rachelís side getting nothing around the house done. We certainly needed and appreciated her help and support. At the time I had no idea how much this crisis may have cost Kay to come out to us and I donít mean just financially. However, I was still very grateful and I was also very nervous because I hadnít met her personally before this. In fact, this was to be our first meeting. My nervousness turned out to be completely unjustified though.
During Kayís stay she was incredibly loving, supportive, kind, and caring. She never once made me feel like Rachelís birth defect was my fault (trust me when I tell you that there are mother-in-lawís that have done this - at least inadvertently). She never pressed for my husband and I to ďtalkĒ about things or to ďdoĒ this and ďdonítĒ do that around the house or in regards to our parenting. I never personally felt judged for anything by her. Not even for the condition of my house which, although I canít recall, could not have been in the greatest of shape considering where most of my time was being spent.
Kay was a God send to us. She was a quiet pillar of strength and a silent pair of comforting arms. It was toward the end of her stay I was to understand how she knew to provide the quiet gift of her presence and nothing more. Kay had a similar experience herself as a young mother. Although her experience was laced with a deeper and more painful grief: she had prematurely given birth to twins who died a short time later. I can only imagine how it must have felt to watch her son and his young new wife weep and worry over their newborn daughter and her serious medical condition, hovering over the incubator in the NICU surrounded by tiny premature babies that may have resembled the two she lost.
It pains me to think she may have spent those days with me in the NICU recalling or even reliving her own personal loss and yet never mentioning or remotely hinting at her own experience. What that experience must have cost her pierces my heart to this day.
At some point during her stay I had pulled out my old afghan to show her. It was then I discovered a large hole in the middle of it. I was heartbroken over it. She immediately offered to try to repair it although she was quick to point out that it wouldnít be perfect. She said she would at least TRY to make it better. I was grateful for that. I didnít care if it was perfect, I just wanted that big hole gone and I knew I couldnít fix it as I didnít know how to crochet and didnít know anyone else locally who could either.
So Kay and I went shopping for the yarn and other supplies she needed and she then spent a day or so working on it. When she was done she showed it to me and she was apologetic because it didnít look the same as before. However, I was thrilled with the result. No, the afghan wasnít perfect like it was before, but it was still beautiful, it would still serve its purpose, and it was still a gift.
Today I was reflecting on Rachelís birth and I recalled that day. It struck me how that afghan paralleled Rachelís birth, even her entire life. She was born with a hole in her back. It was repaired surgically. Her physical abilities are not perfect though and she does need a wheelchair. However, she is still beautiful. She still serves her purpose. She is still a gift.
I also reflected how grace entered my life through all three of these women by means of that afghan. My Grandmother did love me despite my being difficult. Mildred still cared enough about me to make sure I received my Grandmotherís last gift even though we didnít know each other well at that point. And my mother-in-law Kay cared enough about me, despite also not knowing me well and during an emotionally difficult time for her, to repair that gift. These women were three faces of Godís grace demonstrated through their acts of kindness.
True kindness is not just given to those we know (or those we know AND like). True kindness is not just given to those who deserve it (or those we DEEM deserving). True kindness is not just given to those who may appreciate it (or who SEEM to appreciate it). True kindness is demonstrated when we allow that secret place in the heart to open up and show love, compassion, acceptance, or even help to those we may not know or remotely understand. That place in the heart is where grace abides.
Grace comes to us in many different ways and it often comes to us unnoticed and unappreciated. There are times for some of us when it comes on a daily basis! And like the afghan and my daughter Rachel, grace is a gift. Sometimes that gift comes in plain packaging. Or packaging that seems difficult to open. Perhaps the packaging is even unattractive to us or painful to unwrap. As a result many of those gifts of grace go unwrapped or are unwrapped hurriedly then discarded and forgotten. Sometimes we receive a gift of grace but we never ďgetĒ it.
Perhaps one of the main purposes of our lives here on earth is to grow increasingly aware of those gifts of grace that God sends to us in so many different and mysterious ways. Perhaps another purpose is to learn how to share or even BE that gift of grace for others.
Iím not sure. I just know that I have an afghan three women I loved and I think loved me in turn, even if just a little, that I will pass on to another woman I love and that loves me in return. That is grace. Godís grace.
May you experience Godís grace today and every day. And may you notice it when you do.