My mother was from the generation of women who cooked meals from scratch, knit sweaters, and made most of our clothing … and like most women of her generation, she taught these skills to her daughters. I learned how to knit and sew, but admittedly, I never bothered to actually use the skills.
When my mother was in her mid-80s, she developed terminal cancer, and eventually the call came one afternoon that the end was near. I travelled the 700 km back home to be with her in her final hours. She clung tenaciously to life for 5 days and during this time I sat vigil with my siblings by her bedside. It turned out to be a special time of re-bonding for us – we told stories, and laughed about our antics as kids growing up. During this time, my sister-in-law would knit quietly while we chatted. Before long, my sister and I also picked up some needles and began to churn out multiple wool squares that would eventually become a quilt.
For months after my mother passed away, I continued to knit square after square. It was a peaceful activity that helped make me feel connected to my past and my family. Eventually the urge to knit passed.
It’s been almost 3 years now and my mother’s knitting needles have sat in a tall container by my bedside table. Recently I’ve been feeling the ‘call’ of the knitting needles and I finally responded. Once again I’ve been lulled into the calm of knitting row after row of wool squares. I have no desire to create anything else, but the quiet meditation which comes from the repetition of knitting makes me feel grounded.
I’ve often thought that my mother gave us one last gift before she left us – the gift of time together. Not since we were children did my siblings and I have so much time together to talk and really connect with one another. It helped set the stage for this new chapter in our lives as ‘orphans’.
Only recently have I now come to realize that my mother gave me a second gift … the opportunity to reconnect with a simple skill she taught me so long ago. We can never be sure what will become a ritual in our lives … those things in which we will find comfort or pleasure when the need arises. I now know there is one more ritual I can embrace when the time arises, to help calm the inner turmoil that comes during the cold days of winter.