“Like the unexpected call of a friend just when you need it most, grace arrives unannounced. A door opens. A path becomes clear. An answer presents itself. Grace is what it feels like to be touched by God.” —Bishop Steven Charleston, Facebook Message.

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I stand waiting to walk out and read the Gospel as we sing the Sequence, the hymn before the Gospel: “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.” I glance at the last verse, and there, faintly written in pencil, just before the beginning of the last line, is the word “softer.” It is in my mother’s distinctive handwriting. I had forgotten that my mother sang in the choir at her small Episcopal church in Virginia. This must be a directive from the choirmaster.

My mother has been dead for more than nineteen years. We did not always understand each other; but when she died, I wanted to honor her in some way, and decided to start using her personal hymnal/prayer book in church.

Her name has worn off the front cover; the gold cross on it will soon be gone. The red leather cover is now coming apart, particularly the backboard of the spine of the book. I have not repaired it because for some unknown reason what remains of this book, just as she used it, seems to be connecting me to her.

When I saw my mother’s writing, I gasped and sent up a small prayer of thanksgiving. We had some very difficult times; but over the years since her death I have begun to feel healing. This morning, in this split second, I felt reconciled with my mother and was grateful for the life and support she gave me.

Healing of family relationships takes time and constant prayer for family members and for ourselves. Today I realize that prayer works. Attempting to connect to an estranged family member through something that family member treasured and we can share with them over time works. This valuing what we have in common rather than remembering our differences brings about healing in life as well as after death. My mother and I shared our love of the Episcopal Church and singing in particular. Today I almost felt my mother beside me.

Through this realization I experience one more way that God’s Grace continues to heal and care for us over time if we only put ourselves in the position to receive.