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I called my mom, Maureen Kenner, the day her obituary was published to see if she agreed with the tone, the accolades, the progression. She didn’t answer; which only seemed obvious after it went to voicemail. She died four weeks after my dad, Buddy Kenner, died. 

Mom chose “Grace” as her confirmation name and lived by that code. She spent her lifetime as a teacher working with the handicapped, elderly, and disenfranchised. She lived like the inspirational banners that adorned the bright walls of her Room 4 classroom and saw possibilities in every field trip, every circle in the sand, every Scattergories game, holiday song, night out for pizza and ice cream sundaes, every grandchild, niece, nephew, student, and family member.

But what is “grace?”

Is “grace” strength?

My father had frontotemporal lobe dementia and my mom, diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer only five months later, was his caregiver. She remained steadfast even when his disease prevented him from giving her the care she sought from a husband and partner.

Is “grace” poise? Their dreams of their retirement were never clouded with health issues. The life they worked toward was not there; it had changed past the point of recognizing. The reality of what they retired to was obvious.

Is “grace” the ability to trust, respect or remain optimistic? “Will I be ready in his time of need?” Mom worried about that all the time. “What will happen to him when something happens to me? What’s going to happen to me when something happens to him?” She worried that neither of them would be strong enough to keep their vows. She had such a strong sense of accomplishment for all they had achieved together, but it was clear that their happiest days were behind them.

It is said in the Book Of Job, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh, Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Maybe “grace” is found in delicate actions - when we are genuinely there for others, putting our neighbors before ourselves, sharing in their joys and trials. I know Mom found her joy and happiness in the joy and happiness of others. She’d say, “When you put others’ needs before your own, it is truly in giving that we receive.”

I believe Mom found her “grace” through her courageous ability to ask for and to receive help. For four years, our community rallied behind our family, nourishing us with daily visits, leis of orchids, origami cranes, handmade cards, gift boxes, songs, and signs on our lawn. As the seasons changed, our community remained inspired to do good for my family. They let their spirit grow and let it make a difference, unafraid to open themselves up to heartbreak and disappointment. When there was an abundance of pain, and the generosity of others powered my family through to live another day, that’s when I learned about “grace.”

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