Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Prayer Shawl

A few months ago, I finally managed to get to one of my knit group's get-togethers. My attendance this past summer had been sporadic, mostly because I wasn't willing to leave Tom alone for more than a couple hours.

But he was having a good day, and he encouraged me to go. The group was having a going away party for Mary Adrian, who had just taken a great job in another state.

When I arrived, I was quite surprised when all the gals gathered around me and handed me a gift bag. Inside was a beautiful blue prayer shawl. It's tradition in this group to group-knit a prayer shawl for any member having a rough spot in their life, and the ladies each took turns lovingly knitting on my shawl and saying a prayer for me at the same time. I was overcome by their generosity and compassion. Lots and lots of tears. It meant so much.

The photo below shows the members of the group at the going-away party. Several who actually knitted on my shawl weren't able to attend that day. I am thankful for such wonderful, caring friends. That's the party girl Mary Adrian front-left, and me in my beautiful shawl on the right.

I took the shawl home and showed it to Tom. I was in tears again; the emotions that shawl released were overwhelming. He understood - and gave me a huge hug. I wrapped that shawl around both of us, and we just sat there holding on to each other for a long, long time.

These past months I wore the shawl when I was feeling down. Our journey became increasingly rough, and I would wear it even when it was way too hot to wear a shawl. It was very calming to me, mostly because I knew how much love was being shared when it was being made.

When we went to Ann Arbor in early September, I didn't take it with me. After all, we were just going for a quick consultation with a pain specialist - I had no idea that Tom would be admitted to the hospital, and that we wouldn't be returning home that day.

After two weeks in the hospital, I managed to get back home for a few hours of bill-paying, paperwork catch-up and cat checking. I saw the shawl as I was walking out the door to return to Ann Arbor, and threw it over my shoulder. I can't explain why I did that. Somehow it just seemed like it was necessary. At that moment, I had no idea that Tom wouldn't be coming home.

Two weeks later, I was holding Tom's hand when I realized that he needed my prayer shawl. I tucked him in it as he was sleeping. I knew it was going to be his last weekend on this earth, and felt much better sharing my comforting, prayer-loaded shawl with the most important person in my life. He slept, with me holding his hand, surrounded by that beautiful shawl.

That weekend, his sons came up from Florida. He slept some of the time, resting some of the time with his eyes closed, but was awake frequently. He was fully aware that they were there with him, and although he wasn't able to talk much, he was able to communicate with them with hugs and hand motions.

One of his sons brought a new photo of our youngest granddaughter, Shaylen, with her newly-discovered Mona Lisa smile. That last morning, I tucked the photo next to his hand, above the prayer shawl. Even though he was sleeping, he knew what I'd done. He squeezed my hand, showing me that he realized I was sharing with him things which are important to us - friendship, love and family.

I miss him. He's in my heart, every moment. But it's sure not the same as having him sit with me on the sofa. I'm okay with his leaving, but I wish with all my heart that he was still here. That he was able to squeeze my hand so strongly just moments before he died was a special, one-of-a-kind gift - it meant he knew where he was going, and he was saying goodbye.

I love you, Thomas.


Karel said...

I haven't met you yet, and I never had the chance to meet Tom, but was in tears as I read this. What a beautiful thing for your friends to do, and what a priceless gift that shawl now is. So many memories attached. Thank God for memories, and thank God for friends.

Karel (KWAK from Ravelry)

Virginia Curtis said...

Love and condolences on your loss Beth. I know you have peace in your heart that your beloved Tom is now relieved of his suffering. I pray that you will find your joy in life and in the knowledge that you were blessed to have this great love that many never find. Your patience and commitment to Tom has been an inspiration to me and I have followed your journey since last year when I met you on Twitter. Sending hugs and prayers. Virginia Curtis (@cars4causes)

Phydeaux Designs said...

I am so so sorry for your loss, Beth. I periodically see your tweets on Twitter, but something you said today about being sad led me to check out your blog. Big hug!!! Brenda (phydeauxdesigns on twitter)

Alicia @ boylerpf said...

My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to you, Beth. I hadn't checked your blog in a while and read this post knowing what the fore posts were going to tell me. My deepest condolences on the loss of Tom. How special a single gift of a prayer shawl can be...may it wrap you in the love that we all are sending your way.
xoxo Alicia