Whew. One down, and one to go—graduations, that is. My first-born daughter, Annie, graduated from college about a week ago. Her name was always going to be Annie, by the way. In fact, after my grandmother, Annie Ruth, died, I sat in the limousine at the funeral and told my husband that our first child would be a girl, and we would name her Annie.

Three months later, I was pregnant with a daughter—Annie. It was when Annie turned two that I realized that the daughter I had named after my grandmother was actually Annie, my grandmother.

I had fallen asleep with Annie dozing next to me in my bedroom. I woke up from my nap to find her playing with an old jewelry box of mine. What she had put on (of the near-hundred pieces of jewelry) were the only three pieces of jewelry that had belonged to her great-grandmother, Annie. One of the pieces was a locket with my grandfather’s picture in it. She declared at that time that the locket was hers, although she could not tell me the name of the man in the picture.

I knew then that my daughter was Annie Ruth.

I feel extremely blessed to have had the experience of one soul traveling with me on this ride. She took care of me when I was little, and now it’s my turn to take care of her. 

The name “Annie” means “grace,” or “in favor of God,” which I did not know at the time I named my daughter. I’m certain now that grace is what she came here to teach me.

She is one of the most compassionate, loving people I’ve ever met. And no, no—I take no credit. She has always been that way.

She’s been carrying bugs outside instead of killing them since she could walk. She walks very gently and differently from others on Earth, not in a timid way, but in a purposeful way.

She walks with Grace.

Here is the grace lesson I’ve learned from watching her for an entire lifetime. Annie has actually helped me define “Grace” as not a religious word necessarily, but a way to live.

Grace is a mind-body state of living in one’s own integrity without harming others as you do so. Grace is about living essentially in a mind–body state of compassion.

Last week, I talked about how living with integrity has been very hard for me, but it was never meant to be. As Annie has taught me, living with integrity is easy and beautiful because when we walk with integrity, we are walking in our highest state of mind and body—a compassionate state. Other people sense this, too. They may not understand your choices, but they will make space for them because you are a person who takes care to not harm others.

I think we tend to believe that behaving with integrity means having to consider others right or wrong because they make choices different from our own. 

But behaving with integrity always means being compassionate toward others when we must move forward—even when we disagree with what they are doing or visa versa. We don’t have to harm or judge other people to live our integrity—being “righter” than others was never the goal for any of us.

Those are the lessons I’ve learned about Grace from living with a master. I hope it  somehow helps you too. My other daughter, who graduates next Tuesday, has taught me plenty, too. I’ll give you a hint: her name means “universal one,” and I will share some of those lessons one day.

Say a prayer for this soon-to-be empty nester!