A Space for Grace to Enter
by Christy Moe Marek

The stillness of a recent early summer morning found me in the garden. As I tended and planted and otherwise lost myself in creation, I heard rustling behind me and turned to find my dog Ritter belly up, rolling around in my iris garden.

“No!” I bellowed, rushing to yank him out of the blooms that I eagerly anticipate all winter long.

This garden is beloved to me – the first garden I planted mere days after we moved into our home nearly a decade ago, full of varietals that have followed me from house to house for almost 30 years. It displays a stunning mash-up of colors and fragrances that never fail to surprise. Their short-lived blooms impermanent yet steadfast which is precisely what makes them so cherished.

“No, no, no…” I chanted as I hauled Ritter unceremoniously to his feet. My sweet pup, jarred from the bliss of scratching his every itch, real or imagined on the craggy rhizomes, regarded me with confusion. Choking back tears, I dragged him inside; his delight and my anguish traveling side by side.

Back at the garden’s edge, I sank to my knees amidst the destruction, letting the feelings course through me – resistance, anger, frustration. Disbelief. The desire to control, to fix. The urge to turn back time. Bargaining. The oddly comforting discomfort of self-blame. The deep surprise of loss.

Slender stalks lay broken at the base in a circle where Ritter rolled. Tender colorful blooms ground into the dirt under his weight. Ravaged. Putting my attention on each full inhale, and the sweet release of sadness at each exhale, I emptied and let in whatever came.

I began to notice the signs of life that surrounded me. The nattering of red squirrels in the honey locust. The way the sun reflected off water droplets on snapped iris leaves. The changing colors of spent blooms, flattened blooms, newly unfurled blooms. Teeny electric blue dragonflies flitting from one stalk to the next and one large one, with iridescent black striped wings, curious enough to rest in the middle, completely unfazed.

“Of course,” I thought to myself. Creation, destruction; life, death. Beauty in the midst of chaos. Joy in the discomfort of the unknown. Vibrancy in the face of loss. Everything belongs.

Immediately, my thoughts changed, my body softened, my energy shifted, and I discovered an exquisite peace at the center of it all. I was reminded that we don’t have to like what is happening. We don’t have to agree with it or be OK with it, but when we can sit in the messiness of our big and small losses and engage with what is–whatever that might look like for each of us–something unexpected happens. We create a space for grace to enter.

And it is within this grace that we will be enriched, nourished, and held by the sacred process of living and dying that tears us apart just as it weaves us back together, different, but more whole than before.

Christy Moe Marek was first called to work with the dying more than 25 years ago as a new college graduate. She wasn’t sure what to do with a call so deep, so she held it close until the time felt right to move forward. In 2013, that time arrived, and she hasn’t looked back since. Christy is a certified End of Life Doula, Anamcara End of Life Practitioner, writer, avid outdoor meditator, and compassionate advocate for intentional living while dying. She is devoted to walking alongside those facing terminal illness and their loved ones, inviting them into creative engagement with this inevitable aspect of every life. Find out more at tendinglife.com