Profoundly influenced by the song all my life, my relationship to it and was beautifully deepened when I became aware of the version sung in the Unity churches.
In Unity teachings the words, “that saved a wretch like me,” were changed to “that saved a soul like me.” What a difference the change of that one word made for me. Albeit moved by the remarkable melody and words, I did not think of myself or others, as wretches – but souls, yes, I could relate to being a soul and could see everyone else as one as well.
Now I could not only relate to this amazing song, I could identify with it. I am a soul, everyone I love is a soul, everyone I know or don’t know is a soul; and my name is Grace – this is a hymn that is particularly meaningful to me. Sometimes I say, “Yes, Grace, as in Amazing,” when giving my name and hearing it repeated back. I love my name, and I love feeling closely related to the song.
Because of my eponymous relationship to Amazing Grace, I think about the principle of Grace a lot – in fact, much of the time. I contemplate every definition of grace that I come across. My own definition, derived from all these ponderings, is this: Grace is the demonstrable love of God, regardless of what is being held in consciousness.
So I can be expecting the very worst when the baseball my grandson Nate has whacked with all (I can tell by the exquisite pruning up of his face) his strength, is irrevocably headed for the Gadani’s picture window, but falls harmlessly into the flower bed, not even denting a petal in its descent. Amazing grace.
In January, as I was carrying the recycling to the garage, I stepped on a dustpan that had fallen from its place on the wall. Arms around the bin of reuseables, I didn’t see it, and perhaps, that dustpan finally got to fulfill its life long dream of being a skateboard. Whoosh! I went flying, along with the bin of paper, plastic, and glass.
I came down on the cement floor with my ankle bent backward. The first thing I did was scream, “NO!” . . . loud and elongated like you’d hear in a horror movie. My next awareness, and oh, it was instant, was that I was home alone – so without knowing how badly I might be hurt, I became afraid – afraid like a thumping heart and visions of dying right there, on the cold floor of the cluttered garage. I started panting, – hard – like giving birth panting, to regulate my breath and center myself.
My mind was crazy – flashing through every disastrous possibility, while praying for every possible grace. I was scared and hurting and furiously saying, “Fuck off!” to another part of my mind that was chanting John Lennon’s – “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans,” interspersed with the words of his song, Imagine. Apparently the sound track for my life has already been scored – I can only hope there’s some Jackson Brown in there somewhere.
Somehow, I prayed and breathed myself calm enough to drag my ravaged ankle out from under my body. Oh, it was ugly, already bruising, and, as soon as I saw it, I began hurting uncontrollably, hurting like fire, hurting like the worst of vulnerable powerlessness. How instantly we know that everything is different now – I’d been on my way out to swim, when would I be able to swim again?
The gratitude took over about half an hour later when having dragged myself back into the house, I began to think my ankle might not be broken – it wasn’t, thank you, Spirit. Each person I called for support answered the phone – thank you, Spirit. My daughter was able to leave her job, come attend to me within the hour and return in time for an important meeting – thank you, Spirit. My friend Richard, a physical therapist, knew exactly how to take care of me – thank you, Spirit. It felt like amazing grace.
I moved into gratitude as if it were a welcoming country. Yes, I was hurt and immobile, and frighteningly uncertain about when I’d be up and around again, but each time I looked at my bandaged elevated foot, I felt gratitude. My ankle isn’t broken, I’m warm and fed, my loving family is nearby, Richard is taking good care of me, I’m grateful, thank you, thank you.
I became aware of those who were suffering far more than I – somehow my mind kept fixing on those who’ve experienced torture – a sprained ankle would be the preferred pain. Thank you, Spirit – deliver all those who suffer into your amazing grace.
Six days I sat immobile with an elevated foot and contemplated grace. I kept falling into gratitude – blissfully like a child falls onto a trampoline. “How is this perfect?” my teacher Byron Katie would ask. “In every way,” I answer gratefully, gracefully, feeling both naïve and somehow wise as I do.
Who falls down hard and sprains their ankle and feels grateful? The words from Imagine come again and I hear Lennon singing, “and I’m not the only one.” I remember that Ram Dass called his stroke, Fierce Grace. I think that countless more before me have found gratitude in painful or unexpected events and I humbly join their ranks. I’ve read that those who have suffered beyond belief, those who have felt pain beyond measure, those who have been tormented, come to know that pain, suffering, and torment exist in a spectrum of severity. A sprained ankle brings some pain, some fear, some inconvenience, and surely sends plans flying out the window; but barely registers on that spectrum – except perhaps as a reason to feel gratitude for what didn’t go wrong – and amazing grace.
POSTSCRIPT: Progress and Patience
Richard said it would be at least two months before I’d be walking normally. It’s been two months since my fall, and most days I’m almost walking normally. I’m back to swimming as usual, but not yet able to walk the dogs twice around the park fast. We’re still working on once around the block slowly. I’m learning patience.
The two steps forward, one step back progress is too much of a pun to not evoke head shakes, eye rolls, and chuckles. But the progress is undeniable. From two crutches to one to none; from always bandaged and elevated to two bare feet blessedly flat on the floor; from the playful nickname ‘Hobble,’ to lots of ‘wows’ about how well I’m walking. I can garden a little bit, and rarely have any pain; although I wonder if my ankle will ever again be the same size and color as the other one, and I long to wear heels again.
My ankle has become my latest teacher – of patience, of course, and also how healing is a process, how slowing down brings new stillness, how suffering really can be optional, and how change is inevitable. Thank you, Spirit.