Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hello basket of knitting, and other stories

In pursuit of busywork (though actually, clearing up a week's worth of the stuff that accumulates when you're not paying attention isn't so much busy as necessary) I piled all my little bags of knitting and knitting accessories into one place and got this.

(That basket is about 10" tall and 19" wide, if you're wondering.  Also: it a Reisenthel carrybag, in the 'Garden' print. I got a little obsessed with Reisenthel baskets over the winter and this is part of what came out of all that.)

If I were just thinking about what I was knitting, or glancing at my Ravelry page, I would name two or three small projects. So I guess I must be somewhat in denial? I do know this is just the stuff that was upstairs, being convenient for getaways and public transit trips.  There is more piled up beside my knitting sofa downstairs, and also under the knitting coffeetable.

(this is what happens when you knit a lot, I find.  furniture doesn't just get called by its proper name any more, it's "knitting - [piece of furniture].")

Luckily the basket includes my twined mitts,

which are all done except for running in ends and blocking.  I'll give them their big debut on their own day, they've earned it.  But right now I can tell you they are super pretty even inside out, and I did finish them when I wanted to.  Go me!

Also in the basket up there: Bob's socks, which are undyed and a solid colour and have no pattern whatsoever and yet have somehow nearly reached the end of toe number one.  How is that possible?

And I think all of that is all I have to say on the subject of pure knitting.  I have two more stories that are crafty as a transition, but I'm going to talk about my mum today so if you come to Hugs for the light remarks, I won't be the least bit hurt if you move on now.  I'll have cheerier stuff in a day or two.

* * * * *

I talked with a bunch of ladies from my mum's craft group at her wake, and it seems she did beautiful work, the most beautiful and inspiring of all the crafters.

This was crochet, not knitting, and she went to the group to make things for the annual bazaar at church.  But she also did a lot of granny squares to stitch into blankets, being careful to coordinate colours from whatever was available to her at Zellers, the Canadian edition of - what, K-Mart? Target?  Mum was a Depression-era girl and was never going to get my willingness to spring for hand dyed wools, though she did love to touch what I was knitting.

Her goal was to make every one of her grandchildren a blanket to take to university, and the one who was leaving most recently got one that was finished up just after mum's health began to decline.  I'm so proud of her for pulling that off because believe me, those last few squares and the finishing were tough for her.  She was motivated though.  She loved her grandchildren.

* * * * *

People have been sending me flowers and they are so pretty.  I took pictures of the first two deliveries for colour inspiration:

Green, purple, and white

Yellow, white and textured red (this one is from my new office, which makes me feel pretty good about working there.)

* * * * *

I mentioned mum was a Depression-era girl and you'd know about the hardships of that time, both economic and personal, if you talked to her long enough.  She didn't sugarcoat.  Mostly though her stories were just funny or about something fun.  She had a lot of friends and was close to her whole huge extended family.  From those connections she found more good times in the simplest of activities than anybody I know, but she wasn't outgoing or bubbly as such.  Though she participated in everything she was a little shy I think, really.

What struck everybody about her was how nice she was.  How warm and generous, how kind, how peaceful, how welcoming.  That really came out at her funeral, how very many people cared about her for those qualities.  I mean: she hadn't been at that craft group for nearly three years, and none of her friends there knew her kids, but they came anyway.  They'd missed her.

That doesn't bode well for me, does it.

* * * * *

This is a little hard to write but I want to share it, because somebody else might find him/herself in this situation some day and benefit from knowing it.

Mum died right in front of me.  Just as she was taking her seat for a little family celebration she had a massive heart attack and a moment later went into cardiac arrest, which is essentially instant death.

It's good to be aware of that 'instant death' part for two reasons:

1/ A body will go on breathing for up to ten minutes after cardiac arrest.  And that body is still dead.  Really.

2/ It is possible to bring somebody back from cardiac arrest.  But unless you are able to do it the moment it happens, you are not going to bring him or her back even remotely to where they were.  Especially if s/he is 87 years old and not 100% superhealthy.

I had a lot of guilt for the first twenty-four hours because I hadn't known or accepted those two things.  If you're ever in my position, try to cut yourself slack early on, okay?  You'll have enough to deal with, trust me.

* * * * *

"Hugs For Your Head" refers to hats, but also good things for your brain.  I am very interested in how our brains work and thank goodness, because after the first day I was able to figure out where my guilt came from, and trick my brain into letting go of it.

Here's what I did: I listened to Pete, who was there too, when he explained that because I only looked up from the chair I was moving in the moment mum's body fell, I missed seeing her have her attack and her cardiac arrest.

Now, I was conditioned to do everything in my power to prevent my mother from falling because

fall = broken hip = pneumonia = slow, painful death

So when I saw mum fall and be instantly unresponsive, I assumed her unconsciousness was the result of injuries from that fall and therefore my failure as her daughter.

This wasn't true, I knew that, but I couldn't get my brain to let go of it.  Finally it occurred to me to change what I was seeing every time her fall flashed up in my mind (this is still happening a lot, it's trauma, what can you do?)  And what I did was to sort of sketch in a picture of her spirit moving forward out of her body as her body fell back. 

Instant relief.  Now all I have to deal with is grieving.  It's still not fun, but at least it's true.  Try it if you ever find yourself in a similar spot; maybe it will work for you too.

* * * * *

The last thing I want to say today is the most important, and it is

thank you.

SO much.

Thank you to every single one of you who commented or e-mailed a message of sympathy after mum died.

I am pretty sure we have a wide variety of cultural approaches to grief here, but one thing that we all share is the coming together in community when a loved one passes.  My cultural tradition is to gather at a funeral home - the family is present for one or more periods of time, and friends and family come to offer their support and their prayers.

I have been to enough funerals now as both a mourner and a supporter to know that this gathering is key to recovering from such a loss.  But I also knew that this time - as with Les last year, in fact - I was going to have to get through three days before the gathering could begin.  So I told you all what had happened, and I started calling and e-mailing all my other friends, and all that talk and comfort carried me past those tough three days.

Amazingly a lot of those people and more, too, came to the funeral home, and still more to mum's funeral mass.  So even though we can all agree it is really hard to lose your mum, I gotta say, I feel very well-supported and hugely, hugely grateful for all the good people in my life.  Including all the good people here whom I've never actually met.

Okay, I'm done now.  I'll be back tomorrow or the next day; I have to show you this crazy giant sock I'm making for Bob.  Hopefully it will be sunny for my poor little camera.  Fingers crossed!


CathyAnn said...

What beautiful words, and yes, what you wrote will certainly help others. Please know that I keep you in my prayers.

Gina said...

Your words are indeed beautiful and wise. Take your time and do what you need to take care of yourself - be it knitting, blogging, just being still, or (heaven forbid) cleaning. As you know, grieving strikes one in odd ways and often at the most unexpected of times.

Unknown said...

You are truly a wise woman. Your willingness to share painful memories to help your followers is admirable. I've been thinking of you so much and sending you strength and love.