Recently, our neighbor and friend, Cindy, lost her 31 year old son very suddenly and unexpectedly from illness. We only knew him casually, but attended his memorial service out of respect and support for his Mom and family. His family was understandably devastated, and when we heard story after story of how active he was in the community and the impact he made in people's lives, my sense of loss continued to grow.
That night and the next day after the service, I couldn't stop thinking about poor Cindy. I wanted to do something but couldn't imagine what I could do to help her. More than anything, what I thought she needed was to be hugged and held.
Then I remembered the wonderful tradition of the Comfort or Prayer Shawl and realized that, as a knitter, I did have something special to offer. The idea is to create a special item for someone who is ill or suffering in any way. Janet Bristow, one of the two founders of Prayer Shawl Ministries in 1998, describes it this way on their website:
They wrap, enfold, comfort, cover, give solace,
mother, hug, shelter and beautify.
Those who have received these shawls have been
uplifted and affirmed, as if given wings to
fly above their troubles..."
This helps tangibly by giving the recipient a warm, soft shawl to wrap around themselves, but more than that, the knitter knits into the shawl the love and support and blessings they are feeling for the recipient.
This felt exactly right to me. I spent some time searching shawl patterns and was waiting at Monterey Yarn when they opened on Thursday morning.
The pattern I had selected was mara , a free pattern from Madelintosh. It is a simple triangular shawl with a garter stitch body and ruffled border. The garter stitch body seemed to add the right amount of weight and grip to feel like a hug and the border was pretty without feeling frivolous. The only problem, for me, was the triangular shape, which can provide too much drag with all that weight in the back. I wanted the shawl to sit up a little higher on the shoulders, so decided on an easy modification. By doing a k2, yo border at either end of each row, instead of every other row as written, V will open up to be longer and less deep and provide longer "arms" to wrap around the opposite shoulder.
The amazing Kathy at Monterey Yarn and I spent quite a bit of time finding the perfect yarn. More than any other project I had made to date, I really felt I had to get the color exactly right. Many beautiful options were discarded because they seemed too "jarring" or "raw" or "angry" or "somber" or "watery" or any of a dozen other adjectives that I had never used on wool before. We chose a lovely, soft Cascade 220 heathers merino wool in gold that we thought be grounding and soothing for Cindy.
I can't begin to tell you how good it feels to be doing something, and not just any "something", but something that feels like I am really using my specific gifts to tangibly help a very nice person in great distress. I expressed this to Kathy, and do you know what she did? She donated the yarn for the project, saying that she wanted me to do this too and that this was her gift and her way of doing something good. I said she was amazing, didn't I?
What a powerful thing is love.