Walking Our Faith: This is grace
I woke up at 4 a.m. in a hotel room that could have been in any of the nondescript airport hotels that line Tower Road.
But the only way to catch a plane that boards at 5:50 a.m. when you live in Breckenridge is to come down the night before and spend the night close to the airport.
My direct flight to Fort Lauderdale landed at noon. I picked up my car and headed to Mom’s apartment, the drive taking longer than usual because, like Breckenridge, this is the high season.
By the time I arrived, Mom was waiting for me on the sidewalk outside her building, her hands gripping her walker, her purse handles slung over one of the handlebars. She looked beautiful and healthy, her white hair grown longer and curled under in a fashionable bob.
She got into the passenger seat while I loaded her walker into the backseat, and we headed to her favorite restaurant on the beach.
We’ve been coming to this restaurant for decades, known as much for its food as for the broad unobstructed views of the Atlantic Ocean. And as with every visit, Mom reminded me that she used to come here with my father. They came in the evening and sat at the upstairs bar and ate oysters.
We both had blackened mahi-mahi and the good homemade bread that they are known for. After lunch, Mom asked if we might go for a drive up A1A, the beach road, and then on the way home stop for ice cream, so we got in the car and drove.
The miles and time slipped away as Mom kept up a steady stream of observations about how the landscape has changed so dramatically since she moved to south Florida in the late 1950s. What had once been miles of empty beaches were now filled with towering condos that forced us to crane our necks to capture a glimpse of the blue waters beyond.
We’d only planned to drive from Fort Lauderdale to Deerfield Beach for about 30 minutes, but before we knew it, we were in Boynton Beach and an hour and a half had passed.
There was nothing special about our car ride. I can’t even tell you that we talked about anything in particular other than our mutual appreciation of the beauty of the ocean and the old trees that still lined parts of the beach road. I only recall at one point that Mom asked how we would know if God had answered a prayer.
She asked it in regard to a friend of hers who has decided that after 92 years of life, he’s ready to die and is now refusing to leave his apartment and has his groceries delivered.
Mom has spoken with him and tried to convince him that it is not his decision but God’s to decide the hour of death. Yet, she also understood that some people could pray for God to grant their request if their life had reached a point of unbearable pain.
Mom talked about her own life, her recognition of growing old, her diminishing physical capacities, her memory not as reliable as it had been in the past. But she also expressed the joy and gratitude she felt for days like this. Days where she enjoyed just experiencing each moment, such as this drive we were sharing.
As the late afternoon sun reminded us of the hour, I turned the car west and headed over to U.S. Highway 1 for the quicker route home.
I thought about Mom’s question of whether God responds to our prayers. And it occurred to me that perhaps he doesn’t answer prayers in the way we think but gives us something completely different that helps us to appreciate the question we’re asking.
As I drove home listening to Mom, a phrase kept repeating itself in my mind: “This is grace. This is grace.”
And I knew this is one of those moments I will treasure for the rest of my life. There was nothing I did to create it. It was a gift of unmerited favor, which is exactly the definition of God’s grace.
Just before we reached home, we stopped at a new ice cream shop that Mom had heard about. She got a scoop of coconut ice cream, and I got a scoop of chocolate peanut butter, and we sat in the car and ate our ice cream and continued to talk.
And the column I’d written for this week suddenly seemed less important than sharing this afternoon of unexpected grace, with you.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking Our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at email@example.com.
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