The Grace of Small Kindness NULL

Every good story has a lesson, and any good lesson is really a gift. I often need to re-learn this lesson, and I can't always find the gift in it, but I can say that this is the story of how I received grace and learned how it is possible to carry that gift everywhere we go. I learned this from my late-husband, who is perhaps the most important person I'll ever know. His name was Ryan. He was 26 when he died.

There is a photograph of the two of us in our essence. We were photographed sitting on my sister's porch. My head is down, my nose nearly touching a notepad on which I was writing directions. Ryan is sitting with an open newspaper on his lap, one hand in the air, a grin on his face, clearly recounting his witty revision of the day's current events. The photograph was taken one year before we married, and two years before he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Ryan and I were different from one another in a way that worked. He was a born politician. I was a born organizer. He got energy from other people. I got comfort from knowing I could handle any situation. He could talk cats out of trees. I could wrangle them.

He was the sort of person that if I left him alone in a grocery store for five minutes, I would find him deep in conversation with a total stranger. In that short time, he would have learned their occupation, children's names and hobbies. Almost invariably, these people would throw themselves at me to shake hands, exclaiming, "You must be Ryan's wife. He's told me so much about you and how you've saved his life twice." I have no idea how he was able to exchange so much information so quickly.

His ability to meet people and see the best in them was something to admire, as was his sense of humor, and his faith that everything would turn out just fine. This last could be annoying as well, because it made him happy-go-lucky in the most impractical of ways. Even though he could quote any book he'd ever read and tell you what page he was quoting from, he couldn't cook. He could estimate percentages accurately in his head, but couldn't balance a checkbook. He could make best friends in two minutes, but couldn't keep a steady job. He could give a three minute impromptu speech and stop on the second, but he couldn't replace a door knob.

I worked, paid the bills, fixed our plumbing, and changed the oil in the car; while Ryan finished college -- later attended law school — kept our social calendar full, and in general kept us happy. When I was too uptight or he was too carefree, the offending party would offer up "You married it" as a means of both defense and apology.

It was not quite a year after we married that Ryan had a grand mal seizure. After a CAT scan revealed a brain tumor, he spent his spring break having brain surgery and cracking jokes about growing a second brain. He spent his summer break cursing the loss of his hair to radiation and flirting with the female chemotherapy patients at the oncology clinic.

Life went on. I got a better job. We moved. He graduated college. He started law school. His neurologist gave him a clean bill of health, though he muddled along with occasional seizures.

During his second year of law school his seizures were increasingly a problem. Finally, one night a visit to the emergency room with a splitting headache resulted in the discovery that he had another brain tumor. The subsequent surgery gave us the news that it had returned in the most aggressive form, which kills 90% of patients within six months of diagnosis. Ryan was as good humored and optimistic about it as usual, but countless doctors, two more surgeries, one experimental treatment and four months later he couldn't see out of one eye nor walk in a straight line.

In the midst of all of this Ryan's step-father decided that we needed to buy a house, so he went and picked one that we could afford. It was barely a cottage -- in the middle of renovation when I first saw it -- but it was a very big deal to Ryan to own his home. The entire scheme was insane. I was out of my mind anyway, so I signed wherever I was told to sign until one day we had a mortgage and a house.

It was during the week that we closed on the house that Ryan took a turn for the worse. His balance was so poor that even a short walk across the apartment was becoming difficult. He didn't really want to get out of bed, because of a painful sensitivity to light. Neither of us could sleep at night, because his constant headache had him up and down all night long.

That week, some friends from church had volunteered to help me paint our new house, but I wasn't able to join them—the doctor wanted Ryan back in the hospital.

On Sunday, we were told that he might have a couple of weeks to live. My sister started making the arrangements for us to set up a hospice at the house, while my mother started coordinating with some ladies at my church to pack the apartment. Our lawyer drew up his will and do not resuscitate. I don't remember much about that week, except a few dramatic moments and a couple of Ryan's last jokes.

We set our moving date for the following Saturday so we could have hospice set up by the subsequent Monday. On Thursday, night they told us that Ryan had a few hours left. The tumor was crushing his brain and would soon be shutting down his respiratory function.

Of course, the doctor was wrong and Ryan lived another day. Though he never opened his eyes, he managed a few silent jokes. The father of his best friend, spent that last night telling hilarious stories about Ryan and his friends' high-jinks, while Ryan's breathing became more labored and his lungs filled with fluid.

I sat by his side telling him that everything would be fine. That I would be fine and that I knew he was going where he would be so full of joy and love and happiness. More importantly I believed this so fully that I finally knew how peaceful it is to feel the transcendence of grace.

Finally, about 1:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, he gasped a few times for air that wouldn't come, and then he died. It was simultaneously the most terrible and most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

In the morning, I was like a zombie. My mother had me dress, and eat, and call our church, and took me to my apartment where everyone was supposed to gather for the move. It was 9:30 a.m. when I walked into an empty apartment. It was empty except for people. There were family, friends, and other friends of friends whom I had never seen before in my life. I hadn't packed so much as a shoebox myself, and everything had already been taken to the new house. They had all, together, done it for me.

Just like I knew that Ryan would be fine, I knew that I would be fine, because love and peace aren't just in heaven, they are in every one of us. They were in the people who packed and painted. They were in the people who entertained Ryan in the hospital. They were in the people who reminded me to eat. They were in the people who had moved us. They were in the people who had arranged for hospice. I knew that just as I had needed Ryan to tell me a joke when I was down; I had needed those people, and they had wanted to be there for me.

We can find small graces in every act of kindness, every day. Ryan had the ability to look into the eyes of any stranger and find that spark that made them special -- that little something that made them a valuable part of the world. Somehow when he died, he gave that gift to me and taught me how much I needed others.

Submitted by Anonymous


Appreciation
Pass It On®
Pass It On®

  email

Your Comments
Here are some other inspiring stories you might like.
BRAVERY
HARRIET TUBMAN Harriet Tubman freed 300 slaves she was so brave that is why she is my hero
SUBMITTED BY ANONYMOUS
Read Story
COMPASSION
CHARLIE SCHULZ My son, Charlie, was an inspiration to many during his 19 years on this earth. When Charlie was in 5th grade, despite what we learned later was severe social anxiety, their strong sense of what was right led them to circulate petitions among their 5th grade schoolmates and write and present a statement (through...
SUBMITTED BY ANONYMOUS
Read Story
CARING
TISH R My former wife is an amazing individual. She works as a behavior analyst, and has been helping injured others achieve a much greater quality of life. In one of my proudest specific memories, she facilitated a transition for a man who was in an ALF, brain-injured, from wearing diapers in a wheelchair to...
SUBMITTED BY ANONYMOUS
Read Story
KINDNESS
MOTHER TERESA Mother Teresa was born in Albania and left her home country very early in life. She lived in Ireland to learn English, and ultimately went to India where she resided until her death. She was a beacon of hope for many. She did not look to caste, class, religion, skin color, or any other identity to separate...
SUBMITTED BY ANONYMOUS
Read Story
LOVE
AMARA OKEKE My hero is my late mother Since 2000, she fells sick. She was diabetic, all my life I have taken care of her , I abandoned my school, my Visa and career to taken care of her , after 19 years of my sufferings she died last two Saturdays..I was actually 6 years when I started cooking, doing house chores for my...
SUBMITTED BY ANONYMOUS
Read Story
FAMILY
PAT C Next to his faith in God, the most important thing in my Dad’s life was his family; my Mom who was the love of his life, his kids, grandkids, great grandkids, brothers, and sisters. One of the ways he made life better for all of us and left his fingerprint on our lives was through the use of what I like to call...
SUBMITTED BY ANONYMOUS
Read Story
CARING
BETTY DRUCK I want to tell you about my grandmother,she is in her late 50's,she has spent everyday of her life caring for everyone she meets.She has had multiple surgeries and other problems of her own and yet she has given everything for her family,she has spent every christmas with my dad,even when she was in other...
SUBMITTED BY ANONYMOUS
Read Story
HELPING OTHERS
SAWYER A. After learning about children and families in the poverty-stricken villages of Zambia; a country in south-central Africa, Sawyer Anderson wanted to help bring clean, safe water to the villagers. At age 9, Sawyer wrote and illustrated the book, Water Works, which is published in America, Vietnam (in Vietnamese)...
SUBMITTED BY ANONYMOUS
Read Story
WISDOM
JAHSEH O There are many heros I look up to, but Jahseh Onfroy helped me through the darkest times in my life. His music did not only help me but it helped countless people. When he spoke to us, it was always about growing and becoming better than what we are. I have learned many valuable lessons from him, and I constantly...
SUBMITTED BY ANONYMOUS
Read Story
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
LORI R. In 2012 Lori, along with her then high school age daughter Shira, began to keep their vehicle filled with pet supplies to hand out to the pets living on the streets of Riverside, CA with their homeless companions. They would give out pet food, leashes, collars and water so the pets would be fed well and kept...
SUBMITTED BY ANONYMOUS
Read Story
ACHIEVEMENT
AXANA SOLTAN Axana’s steadfast commitment to service made her not only an international voice of activism, but also a champion for the minorities. For the year of 2018-2019, Axana was selected as one of the United Nations finalists to serve as the U.S.A Youth Observer at United Nations Headquarters. The following year, Axana...
SUBMITTED BY ANONYMOUS
Read Story
STRENGTH
ANDRE D On May 2, 2014 Andre' MY HUSBAND at the age of 42 suffered a massive heart attack, he was without oxygen to his brain for several minutes. It caused an Anoxic Brain Injury and other problems such as cortical blindness, seizures and he is bedridden for the rest of his life and resides in a nursing home. The...
SUBMITTED BY ANONYMOUS
Read Story
PEACE
DANA W Grieving (Fly High Dana Wilson Jr.) On March 7, 2022 my only little brother passed away at home in his bed. This has been one of the hardest things to deal with. I dont think a day goes by that i dont find myself breaking down crying. I think my eyes are puffy did alot of crying yesterday..omg this is really...
SUBMITTED BY ANONYMOUS
Read Story
KINDNESS
WENDY T Wendy was my wife of 4 years. We dated in high school, over 30 years ago. Eight years ago, we reconnected, and fell in love all over again. I quickly became attuned to why she was so special: Her kindness. I had never met anyone before, who showed as much kindness to everybody, as Wendy had. It wasn't one...
SUBMITTED BY ANONYMOUS
Read Story
BEING THERE
BK SAINI SAINI My husband helped me since he knew me since 1975. He is there for me every single day. He is so kind all the time. He took care of me during any need except not when he is at the job. He comes at home if any emergency arrives. For God’s grace he was never called till today. I still remember when our second baby...
SUBMITTED BY ANONYMOUS
Read Story
MENTORING
MISTY WELLS 5 Years ago Misty saw a need in children in Foster Care and she took action. For the past 5 years going strong Misty started a non profit called " A Reel Future" where she takes children in Group Foster Care fishing. She has single handed taken over 3,000 foster children fishing. She is showing them...
SUBMITTED BY ANONYMOUS
Read Story
Where did your values come from?

We've all had people in our lives who have made a positive impact on us. A parent or grandparent, a sibling who was there for us, or maybe even just a guy who shines shoes for a living? Whoever they are, tell us their story so they can inspire us even more.

Tell Us Your Story All Everyday Hero Stories