How do you deal with a situation that is so painful it is beyond words?
I have no effing idea.
I have made countless chemo caps for friends, loved ones and total strangers. I’ve knitted tiny little preemie caps, preemie sweaters and even preemie lessing owns to be worn into that long good night. I try to make them as dainty with smocking and their tiny little names because every child should have something someone made just for them. I use the softest yarns in the most delicate colors. The finest Egyptian cottons in such pale watercolors that they are just one drop of color from pure white. I use all of my French hand sewing skills because I cannot imagine sending my infant away in something ordinary or something that was mass produced. If all I can do is donate these tiny little farewell garments and give them to children who have spent just moments on this Earth, I’ve done something good. Because of the way of the world, I try to have enough (and what number would that e? What quantity IS enough?) so that parents can dress their incredibly tiny little ones in a pretty dress and lacy cap before they take that long journey all alone.
I make whackadoodle cocolouie crazy colored caps for little ones who are finally going home, once they reach the magic weight of five pounds. I still use to softest imaginable fibers but they are decorated with dragon scales or twisty pogo stick bongers or big pompoms. Sometimes they look like pumpkins are blackberries or waterbelons but they all celebrate the breathtaking moment of leaving the hospital, still impossibly tiny but on their way home.
I make scarves for the local home where girls who have aged out of the faster system can live while they finish high school, find a job and get some training. At 18, with no family and no government backing, it is nice to get a little gift with a note saying “I made this for you, one stitch at a time, just as you will make a life for yourself. One stitch, one step at a time.”
I try to make two items every month to make others feel better. I don;t sign my projects and I rarely know to whom they go. I hope I’ve earned some good karma, and hope against hope that nothing like whatever you’re trying to protect against will happen to you.
Sometimes, though, it does, or sometimes it just hits close enough. My mother. My father. My aunts. Two of my cousins. Even friends…or even despite friends. I know these are never ones finest moment and sometimes, despite the most well meaning intentions will cause your friend, acquaintance or family member to just snap because WHY would this be happening to them? Why their house? Why their children?
You know, I don’t know. I can knit. I can worry with or for a friend but there is no way to know the exact thing to say that will make it all right; to let your friend/co-worker/acquaintance/family member understand that this is uncharted for me, too. Only once did a friend turn on me like a cornered dog and totally take what I saide with the best of intentions so completely and totally wrong that our frienship will never recover. Partly because I forgive her (it was a horrid time for he) and partly because she simply can not bear to think that even as badly as she turned on me, that I would chalk it up to your basic fear and terror. She doesn’t do those emotions well.
Of course there were the usual hand wringing, the crying, the worry for both her beloved and her and on my end, the praying that nothing like this will be a mistake or barring that, something that would be easily remedied..
I finally had to stop thinking about myself (because the hatred that came spewing out was truly terrifying. I had no idea she possessed those feelings and was simply waiting to hand them over to anyone becasue what had happened to her was awful and so not fair and she would have been joyous had the tables been turned and it had happened to me. Tempered of course with a teeny bit of “oh gosh, I am speechless….with joy that it hit you and not me.
So, since my core belief is that you can make something good out of the worst of experiences (and that many friends feel free to rewrite history to make themselves look not only better than they ever were but almost saintly…and I am as guilty of this as anyone) I learned to stop thinking about myself and think of the mother who was feeling helpless in the face of the worst possible moment of her life. I cannot take this away from her. I cannot bring her child/husband/parent back. I can’t bring her warm dishes, or make arrangements for her, or even just help her get daily chores done.
I am a knitter, though. This means that the first thing that happened to me when I started thinking of how to make this horrible moment in my own history turn into something useful is that I started thinking: what can I knit? What can I sew? How best can I apply the very best of my talents so that somewhere in her heart, there would be a tiny little nibben which would remind her that someone she did not know cared enough to make something lovely. Something she could think about. Something she could hold in her heart as she held her tiny child for the last time. That tiny moment where she could think that her child did not slip away, unknown and unmourned by anyone in the world.
Oh, it is not rocket science. It is nothing, in the grand scheme of the spinning of the Earth But for an instant for one mother I have never met, perhaps in her heart, she can find a nanosecond of peace.
And that is what I do, more for myself than for the little ones who have slipped the mortal ties that anchor them to Earth.
My former friend is lost to me forever and when I really think about it, it wasn’t even her that I miss. I miss her mother and her daughter was just a pale replacement for a woman who was so lavish in her love for me, so joyful in a life that could have easily made her a pickle face but instead gave her a rich background of joy. I sorrow for her daughter because she paled in comparison. I know now that I never knew her. I knew her secrets and I knew her history, both good and bad….but your history is something you can simply change. You can walk away from it. You can decide to pick out the the bits and let the bad pieces just dissolve, like muck on the back steps in the rain. If it isn’t something that brings you joy, assign those memories to some unimportant part of your memory and fill your head with all of the moment s of joy. Don;t hang onto the bad stuff. Leave the past and embrace the present for what it is…something that is joyful and wonderful and funny and entertaining and gentle and loving.
That was the gift her mother gave me and every time I look at Mama’sw wedding picture, I see a whole life, laid out in anticipation of joy. It didn;t always work out that way, but the anticipation was always right there, just waiting a teeny bit out of sight. She was so overshadowed by her mother’s personality and outright glee over her life…which wasn’t easy, but it was what she had to work with and joy is so much better than bitterness. I wish she had the memories I have of her mother because Mama taught me to live to the fullest. So what if you get hurt? Lesson learned and up on your feet and off again, throwing myself at what life has to offer.
So that is why I give my best to those who need it. Maybe a giant check would be better but I think an impossibly tiny hand sewn blessing dress or a tiny angora cap with a deep ruffle can speak volumes about what the world still has to offer and the incalculable worth a soul has within a family.