Lately, I have been contemplating on the concept of grace. This is a concept I could never really wrap my brain around understanding. Its very definition eluded my consciousness. I would think to myself, what is grace, really? I would try to match my understanding with common examples of grace found in our everyday world like the grace period that is on our car loan or saying grace before a meal. Still, nothing truly made sense. When I was younger I heard a lot about the grace of God, but it was never connoted on a positive vibe. “Only by the grace of God are you able to be on this earth, you hussy.” This was the discourse on grace from my formative years with my grandmother who was a wounded goddess that didn’t know the meaning of the word either.
In this month’s issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, there are ten stories and a few scientific approaches to understanding grace as a matter of coincidence and deeper meaning in a tear-jerking article called Moments of Grace. As I was making my vision board for 2015, I flipped through the pages of O looking for power words and pictures when I stumbled upon this article. In its usual fashion, the Universe was leaving me a breadcrumb trail on the path of deeper understanding.
I didn’t feel like reading about grace then, so I just ripped the article out for later and recycled the magazine.
This past Saturday, grace was nudging me yet again to read about her multi-dimensional facets, as I tried to understand the true meaning of her divine presence. I sat down and finally read the article and was moved by grace being symbolized as serendipity, messages from beyond, and healing messages for the future. I began to understand grace’s undefinable grandness in the quiet, unexpected moments of life as a gentle breeze of reprieve, a boon one would never expect in the midst of pain and hardship.
The next day, I was feeling under the weather. I had stayed up too late with my husband Eric watching Love Actually, and trying to shake bronchitis and an ear infection in my right ear. My right ear is my “special” ear. It receives sacred messages, and tips me off to the rest of my empathic body. Lately, I have been having blockages in my special ear and it was making me feel as if my relationship with the beauty of the divine (and music pitch) had been amiss. Instead of hearing loving sounds and whispers, I would hear Morse code tinnitus, or feel and hear painful thumps caused by drainage. What was I missing?
My ear did not, however stop my enthusiasm for listening to Rev. Chris Buice’s words of wisdom on depression and darkness during his sermon at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church that day, nor did it stop me from sharing my insights in our church’s Tennessee Equality Project group on how to establish a Gay Straight Alliance in my son’s school. No, my spirit was definitely willing but I was fucking miserable.
After an empowering afternoon that included a visit with my best friend’s parents, the vertigo and ear pain became worse. More than that, I felt a presence around me that I felt I could not communicate with but was communicating with me, I couldn’t hear words, I couldn’t visage imagery, I couldn’t feel anything but apprehension.
As the evening at home wore on, my precious husband and I sat together and played video games when all of a sudden, painful thumps and stabbing pain began in my ear. I screamed out. I told my Eric “Someone is trying to tell me something, I can feel it. I wish I knew what it was.” I lied on his chest frightened like I used to be when I was a little girl, holding my ear, and hoping the thumping would cease. Little did I know it was a knock on the door of my soul.
“Honey, maybe you should take a hot shower.” Eric said in his soft comforting voice.
I initially thought it a good idea but right as I began to form my lips to say yes, a sharp pain in my ear changed my mind. I didn’t want to be near water, and my instincts told me that if I get in the shower, I would be in worse pain.
As we went downstairs toward our master bedroom, I felt a pang of anxiety.
“Honey will you check my blood pressure?” I went to our bedroom and prepared for the worst. I have a serious issue with having my blood pressure taken. It causes a panic response in me, as if my life force is being squeezed out of me. When I go to the doctor and have it done, it is usually high because being at the doctor also makes me panic. Because of my struggles with anxiety, I always expect the sky to fall, for some disaster to happen, for my gift of life to be cut short. I believe it is because I truly know nothing about grace, and the fact that I deserve to be here alive, well, doing my work, living the dream, answering the call.
As my husband entered the bathroom, I sat cheerfully on the bed. Part of me enjoys playing doctor with him.
Eric wrapped the cuff around my arm and smiled with his gorgeous broad mouth. I began to breathe deeply, comforted by his presence. He squeezed the pressure bulb. Deep breaths, Anjana, I thought to myself.
I felt a pang of anxiety as the numbers revealed themselves and my arm felt tight in the cuff. I began to squirm.
“Honey, relax. Your blood pressure is not high, it’s like 120/75 although it was too noisy to tell. Let’s take it again.”
Where is the grace? I thought to myself.
My husband got up and walked into the bathroom, and quickly came back to sit down on our bed. I took a deep breath and we began again.
Pressure bulb in hand, Eric began squeezing the cuff.
BAM! The sky fell.
A loud crash in the master bathroom followed by an explosion of tile, debris, and dust, came flying from the vicinity of our tub, mere seconds after Eric left it. We both screamed. I screamed out for my son. He was alright. Eric looked into the bathroom and said, “There are headlights in the bathroom. It’s a car. A car crashed in our bathroom.”
We just closed on the house on September 11, the anniversary day of my mother’s funeral in 1993, and the anniversary day that I lost 9 co-workers from Alliance Consulting Group’s New York office. I left that job two weeks before September 11, 2001 because when offered a promotion, which meant trips to the New York office, I didn’t feel right.
On this night, I was too afraid to look into the car to see if the driver was alright, because I didn’t want to see a dead body.
An unlicensed driver delivering food from Aladdin Grill decided to leave his 2006 Ford Explorer running atop the hill behind our house, while I writhed in pain, and debated taking a shower. The SUV careened by itself in a perfectly straight line, down the hill and into our master bathroom just in time for it to have profound meaning. Had I been in the shower, I would have been killed. Had my gorgeous husband done one thing different, he would have perished.
So this is grace.
Grace has always been a companion to my life-long anxiety issue, but my fears have oftentimes been so big that I couldn’t see that they were supplicating to grace and grace heard the cry for help each and every time, sparing me from moments that would have drastically changed or taken my life and the lives of those I love.
There is a genderless, formless, all and nothing, beautiful, omnipresent and intelligent benevolent higher power watching over us and I am thankful for our lives as a gift. Ear pain never felt so good. Grace is the moment when life happens to change on a dime, and you realize you need to catch your breath and there is a gust of wind to give it to you.
The first thing I did after the crash was thank God and grab my manuscript. I got down on my knees in gratitude that I didn’t take a shower as the fire department, police, and rescue teams came to our aid. After I calmed down, I heard the driver was of Arabic decent and unlicensed. I felt the need to talk to him. I walked over to him and told him this:
“All things happen for a reason. And I don’t want you to feel guilty. It is a miracle that we are all safe and alive. Alhamdulillah.” Pronounced Al-Hamdu- Lee-LAH, this phrase in Arabic means “to God be praised.” We cried and hugged. This is grace, and I didn’t even realize it as it was happening.
And as I sit in this unfamiliar place, in an unfamiliar hotel room, postulating on the gravity of life, I am filled with pure gratitude. I may not have my home or my fancy bathroom, but I certainly have my life. Thank you, grace. You have helped me see that I truly deserve to be here, and are meant to be here celebrating the gift of life with my family.
The virtue of grace inhabited our midst, careened down a steep hill into my home, in a vehicle known to roll over on sharp turns. I finally received the message. It is not about defining a virtue but embodying the virtue. My life was spared by the beautiful graciousness of timing, serendipity, and instincts, all of which resides in the infinitely gorgeous mind of God, who’s nature evolves alongside all of us each and every day.
Watch the story on WATE 6 On Your Side