Healing with Grace

By Sarah Munn-Wojtaszek, August 6, 2022

It has been far too long since I posted. I last wrote in December 2021 and from there Healing Grace continues to strive to find our way and to be the grief center our North Country needs. I was recently asked to speak at a local Circle of Hope Memorial. Speaking and sharing no matter how many times I do it creates an unbelievable amount of anticipatory anxiety. AND yet every time I share about the legacy of my daughter and how she continues to live and breathe in the walls of this center, I walk away cathartically relieved.

I was speaking for The Foundation at CVPH for this particular service. Kerry Haley sent me some small guides for the event and told me I would have 5 to 7 minutes. Those that know me being concise in my message is not something I excel at and often find my way down the road of tangents. I had resolved that I would need to type up a small speech to make sure I stayed on task. Kerry asked for a title and my Aunt Michele suggested the title “Healing with Grace.” I knew that was perfect and set out to share the one million thoughts I was having on the topic in a nice pretty 5-to-7-minute package.

The morning of the event I drove to work and as I often do, I spoke with Grace, my grandmother, and prayed in my own way. I remember saying out loud to Grace, “Okay, mom needs something today. I am not sure what it is, and I know I need guidance…” In the morning I worked on my computer for the part-time job I have. Right at the point I was to sign off and dive into my speech outline, a woman that is volunteering stopped in and I could feel the anxiety boil right to the almost tipping point. We visited and I was soon calmed and ready to face the rest of the day. Walking my friend out the door, one of the resident cardinals landed about 10 feet away, looked at us and then flew off. I shared my love for these beautiful birds. I had not seen a cardinal until after my 40th birthday. Now I am visiting them daily and they have even flown right up a few feet away and landed in front of me to say, “Hi!” and then fly off.

A short time later I ran to the back parking lot to my car and returned to the office in less than 5 minutes to find a small brown paper bag snug between the screen door and door casing. I open the bag and pull out this sweet, small, red and pewter cardinal ornament. I could not believe it. I had no idea who delivered this immediately cherished gift AND I knew that this did not just happen without huge significance.

I settled into my desk and began the difficult task of writing my speech (FYI if I do anything well, I procrastinate at professional levels.). It was concise, about 600 words and created this message of all the layers of meaning “Healing with Grace” means to me and this journey I have been on since that fateful day in August 2008 when our hopes and dreams were changed and destroyed in one fast swipe. In the midst of all this I received a text from the sweet friend that had dropped the gift without my knowing. A fellow mother on this healing journey with me. She had forgotten to drop it off for over a month. Yet it was dropped off in perfect timing.

Driving to CVPH, I had Josh Groban’s Ava Maria on repeat, I was crying because this cardinal and message from my daughter was loud and in my face. I could not wait to share with the first person I saw the story of the cardinal. I saw Kerry and excitedly shared this little story of how my daughter seemed to find a voice to speak with her mother. I remember Kerry just saying well there’s your speech. I laughed and said, “Oh, I have my speech all written out and it is about 600 words, and I am finally going to be concise with my message. Haha”

Nope.

That speech will never find the light of day.

I stepped in front of this gentle crowd and shared the story of the cardinal and my daughter. Grace is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary in many ways, but one fits families facing life without their baby, child, mother, father, spouse and anyone they have loved and lost.

Grace: disposition to or an act or instance of kindness… “

This Grace is to love, accept that this will not be a pretty nice little package path to being “healed”, and to be kind. Not only those in which we interact with on a daily basis AND to give Grace to ourselves.

This idea, though simple in thought, in practice can be downright ugly.

On that day, Grace reminded me that I am healing with her, that I am not going to do this in a nice neat concise package and to live what I profess. Give Grace to everyone and especially, to myself. Healing with Grace.

With Grace,

Sarah