Somebody's grandpa rolls out in a wheelchair and stops at the brass bell on the wall. Tugging the cord he rings it loudly and everyone cheers. His radiation treatments are complete. And he grins - proud to be sitting there to grin. There is tenderness in my heart for him - and I smile that I was to shy to ring the bell on my last day. Then they call me back to see the radiation oncologist.
When the doctor, who has become my friend, enters the room there is a joyous warmth in his eyes. The kind of honest warmth that only can come from entering utter hopelessness and unexpectedly discovering God. He grins broadly when he asks how I'm doing for he can already see that I'm healthy. His thorough assessment affirms this and he asks if I have any further questions.
"Yes." Pausing. I'm not sure how to phrase it. . . "I never received a bill from you. . . It has been over a year."
Kind eyes twinkle, a fountain of merriment, as he shakes his head in mock disgust, "My staff is horrible! I'm going to fire them all!"
Then in gentle seriousness, "Don't worry about it."
This ~ After the scores of care providers I've seen, stacks of bills, various versions of financial assistance applications - a maze of financial headaches. And how many 100,000's dollars of care was this gift worth? The gratitude makes me dizzy - I can hardly mumble thanks. It seems incredibly insignificant word.
"Do you mind if I give thanks for you?" He asks.
Grinning, he bows his head in the same humble way that he has ended each of our visits - Thanking God for His love and grace. The absence of pretension, cockiness, and condescension creates a beautiful space for God's presence. His trust is not resting on the astounding achievements of scientific technology or his own intellectual competency. His confidence is in God.
When I was bleeding out from an angry looking tumor and none of the doctors knew what to do, he sat down on the side of my bed and bowed his head and thanked God for me. Now, over a year of thanking later, he thanks God for my healing. This thankful trust threading through all. Gratitude in death and in life.
When my roommate and I parted in the parking lot, she paused in beautiful wonderment, "God must be like Dr. Rice." And I agreed, for the noblest, humblest, and kindest man on earth is but a faint reflection of my God.
As I merged into traffic towards home I remembered the first time I understood what grace meant. It was 2005 and I couldn't apply for college until transcripts from my high school were released, and this must wait until the several thousand dollar bill was paid in full. I had no way to pay it off even if I sent in all my summer earnings.
When I received a statement from the school I opened the envelope with a heavy heart, but heaviness lifted into incredulous amazement. A friend had paid it for me! Earned with blood, sweat, and tears of hard labor. Money that could have gone towards their college expenses or purchased a first car. This sacrifice of love redefined grace for me. A deep desire grew - to attempt to pass onto others even the tiniest bit of this beautiful grace I had received. Perhaps someday I will be able to.
I once thought myself somewhat educated. But then there are these moments when I'm not sure I even understand the most basic definition of a one-syllable word.
God, please teach me how to live grace.