I started this work-intensive, family-heirloom-style crochet project as a self indulgence to inspire and help me through COVID19 lockdown. Mum had just died and although the family came together beautifully and all loose ends were dealt with in the best possible way, she was a great loss and I missed her acutely. With time on my hands, this was therapy. How could it fail – with fabulous yarn, intricate pattern and an emerging work of art?
The benefits of crochet and knitting have long been recognised by a variety of health professionals. Some schools in the US have even put knitting onto the curriculum for health benefits, as well as to build creativity and improve mathematics.
Much of this pattern was in my head from previous projects, which saved me from the intense concentration needed first time around. Fingers soon found soothing rhythms, allowing my heart to wander, to escape the mind – like praying the rosary.
As I stitched, a rich kaleidoscope of scattered memories flitted past. Many had deep feelings attached. The patchwork of colours in the blanket seemed to reflect my complex variety of moods. Some shaded gently into the next, others juxtaposed in unlikely contrasts, but all were joined by the background thread that formed a cross at the corners.
Mum and I had different personalities. She was an extrovert and I am a secret solitary. Sometimes we punished each other. Our high level of communication tended towards the forthright in agreement or dissent. She told me to lose weight and stop buying clothes. I delivered lectures on suitable footwear and insisted on a wheelchair for trips out.
As each unique square blossomed, I felt her unconditional love through the contrasts and inherent beauty of the blanket. She taught me how to knit that first teddy bear’s scarf, corrected my mistakes, insisted that neatness underneath was as important as on top. Had I ever said ‘thank you’? How I wish I could show her my latest creation. She would love it.
As it grew, I realised it would have to become my own special bereavement blanket. The laborious daily process was helping me start to work through my grief. Mum smiled on my busy fingers in total acceptance of those unspoken longings and regrets.
Now finished, it will continue to prompt new conversations, insights and prayers: its warmth, creativity and glowing colours a constant reminder of all that was precious to her and to me, all the lives that were joined to ours, all the silent mutual understandings.
Mum was a prayer warrior and never more so than in her last days. The care home chaplain told us that in those dreadful last three weeks of lockdown when we were not allowed to visit – she was up and dressed first thing, with Bible on her lap, praying. Maybe the challenge is for me to take up the baton. There has never been a greater need for prayer.