March 8th, 2012
Today is a sad day for some of my blogger buddies and me. We were scheduled to head to New Jersey to have a big party at Rachel’s.
I am sharing a tale of comfort and connection to honor what was supposed to be.
The weekend Rachel died, my friends and I did an online vigil, waiting to hear news of her latest hospital stay. As a result, I did not stray far from my phone, anxiously awaiting the latest updates from my friends.
In that unholy modern way, I was doing many things at once: hovering over my devices for news, managing my household, playing online Scrabble, messaging other friends –– simultaneous gravity and frivolity.
Somewhere in that mix, I had an exchange with my twitter friend Kay Gardiner. She was going to be teaching a knitting class in town with her co-blogger, Nashville resident Ann Shayne. Would I be interested in assisting with it?
As Rachel was slipping away, there was a certain kismet in Kay’s invitation. I had learned to knit two summers ago when I finished with treatment. I am a terribly impatient patient and had been ordered to rest. Knitting gave me a version of stillness, since the real kind does not come naturally.
Soon afterwards, Rach started a new chemo regimen, causing her hair to fall out again. She became a favorite of mine to knit for. We treated new hats like a shopping outing. We would look through patterns online, and I would text her yarn choices from the store.
We called ourselves snood sisters.
Rach models the anti-asshat
This odd juxtaposition of experiences –– impending loss, unexpectedly becoming an assistant in a knitting class –– made sense somehow in the weird world of the internet.
Then Rachel died. I was distraught.
Soon after, Kay sent me the pattern for the class. It was a blanket Kay had designed to raise money for Japan in the wake of the tsunami. The pattern called for Sarah’s favorite yarn. Sarah is a knitter too. She and Rach were quite close.
This all makes sense. A blanket designed to help heal a tragedy. A blanket to knit in the wake of Rachel’s death with Sarah’s favorite yarn. A blanket, comforting and cozy. Yes, this makes sense.
As I have written, the grief has been hard. Nobody in my everyday life sees my loss. It lays on the periphery.
After I received the pattern, I set out to work. When I felt sad, I would knit. I thought of how Rachel would have liked it. I wondered what Sarah would say about the colors. The blanket made me feel close to my friends.
These squares are for the Friendship Quilt
Fast forward several weeks. I am at the knitting class. I meet Kay for the first time. Kay and I connected because of knitting, but also because she lost her husband to cancer. She knows illness, grief, and loss. And Rachel would like her, because she also knows snark.
Kay is a mom and a New Yorker and as fantastic of a person offline as she is on.
After we set up the room, people started to stream in. Kay and Ann hadn’t capped the enrollment, so the room filled up. Knitters came from as far away as Texas, New Mexico, Georgia, and Kentucky.
Kay and I took out our phones in an attempt to simultaneously tweet each other.
After we posted the tweets, a woman named Deena came up to me. I had met her before class. She was an avid sock knitter from Texas, sporting a lovely lacy pair.
“I thought you looked familiar! I follow you on twitter. I love your blog! It has been so helpful to me.”
She explained that she was friends with a woman in treatment. From the details, it sounded like Deena had been her rock and resource.
Then Deena said, “I am so sorry about your friend Rachel. I had just found her blog, and what a voice! What a writer!”
I started to tear up because I realized it was the first time I had been offered words of comfort in real life by somebody who knew who Rachel was, who she was to me and the whole breast cancer community.
Oh, how I had needed that.
Deena saw my tears and said, “You know, there’s a Mexican saying. A person dies three times. Once when their heart stops, once when they are buried, and once when the last person says their name. Rachel’s voice was so powerful, so important. She will be with us for a long long time.”
I cried more and gave Deena a hug, thanking her for her kind words.
I don’t understand why things work the way they do, but I am grateful for connections and comfort.
This entry was posted on Thursday, March 8th, 2012 at 8:41 pm and is filed under Survivorship. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.