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Words of Life

Losing Grace

By Ann Voskamp September 1, 2013 Words of Life

In the middle of a stiff winter wind she asks to go to the beach.

That’s where she says she wants to celebrate the turning of her calendar year, this year’s birthday. To stand on the frozen snow and turn her face directly into whatever is coming this way.

Nothing can mean nothing and everything means something. Yes – everything.

We’re the only ones there. We walk the long boardwalk, our footsteps echoing hollow. She will be sixty-one this year. We stand on iced sand hemmed with white snow and she says nothing, gazing out at bared waters.

I don’t ask what she’s thinking. The sunlight seems paled, hardly there in the numbing cold. I watch the way her hair moves in the wind, white waves of their own.

We wander down to where the waves crash on the stones, the water breaking its way onto the unwavering stand.

Doesn’t her silence say this, that this was the way to live? The water lets go again and again on the granite, this oceanic surge of song, this symphonic crescendo.

Is there anything more beautiful than the wild surrender to the Rock?

The song is always found in the surrender.

Mama knew there’d be days like these, when I’d see.

How many more years do I have with her to walk the winter shore? Her hair is whiter than winter and are we already in this season now?

I want spring again. I feel like the child, our shoulders touching here at the sea.

There’s a whole lifetime of memories here at the lake. How many Sunday picnics of fried chicken have we had right up there at the lighthouse? She’d serve extra helpings of green coleslaw and I’d pump the swing high and I could see how we might soar straight out over the lake. There’s a time when you think nothing will end.

I lean into her and she leans into me, and we’re warmer like this, close. Doesn’t there have to be more than a decade left of this? No, there doesn’t have to be anything. The waves keep breaking. Couldn’t she stay until she’s 117?

When you wake to losing someone, you win love. When you realize that what you have you will lose, you win real eyes. You win grateful joy.

It comes across the water and I turn to face it directly. It’s only when you realize everyone you love will one day leave you that you really begin to love. I reach over for Mama’s hand and she does that, she squeezes mine softly and that says more…maybe more than anything. Maybe most.

Someday, it is possible, I could stand here on my own sixty-first. I can close my eyes and almost see that. How then she will be the memory already flown across the waters. How the song will sing on and I will hear notes that were long hers.

And the thought comes like a wave over me: How I will miss her!

The way to experience unlimited elation may be to imagine unexpected limitation. Imagine losing sight and open your eyes to a brighter light. No water, and the next cold glass becomes desert rain. Envision life without the loveliness of those you love – and you see how much you love.

Her half smile there in the wind, it makes me half hurt, her pure worn beauty.

There’s a way to wake up and not to live numb. The way to love life is to imagine losing it. The one who loses his life finds it.

The water keeps giving away to the shore. One day all this will be gone. The sun, it seems so strong now, bright across the water.

Mama, she lets the wind blow her hood right back and I don’t feel numb and there is a theological term for this, all this: Grace.

Full-blown grace.

Standing there, she and I, we watch as it comes straight across the waters – as it comes directly this way.

Us here and alive and in awe that any of this is at all…

This wind awakening everything.


Ann Voskamp appears on LIFE TODAY this Tuesday. This is an excerpt from One Thousand Gifts Devotional:Reflections On Finding Everyday Graces by Ann Voskamp. Copyright ©2012 by Ann Morton Voskamp. Published by Zondervan. Used by permission.

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