Sewing and grieving…

I’ve been writing this post in my mind for the last week.  It has rolled around and formulated itself in sentences and words.  Vague images – like smoke drifting in the air and disappearing – my hands trying to grasp something that is ungraspable.  My mother in law has died.  It is almost overwhelming to write – I have yet to say those exact words out loud.

People say they are numb when someone they love passes away.  I guess that’s true, except it feels like someone is squeezing my chest with their fist and there is a pocket of emptiness where no air flows at the back of my throat. I am moving in slow motion – I cannot think – and for someone who moves fast and is always thinking – it feels like I am walking in mud and not making any progress.  My husband is sad and I cannot fix it.

She was the best.  I can’t help but smile when I think about her.  She was, without a doubt, one of the most genuine, sweet, and kind person I have ever known.  We were with her when she passed.  For that,  I am glad.  She didn’t suffer and she went without fanfare, silently, easily.  Just as she was in life, she didn’t want to inconvience  anyone.  A creature of habit – dependable, reliable, and always consistent to the end.

She loved her children as they were, and in a special unique way. Pat, her oldest. Every Christmas – staying up until well past midnight, helping him to wrap presents. She loved him they way a mother loves the first – proudly, strongly. “Sonny.” Lynne, her girl. So special. They were two peas in a pod. “Sister.” Wordless conversations and understanding always flowed between them. Michael, her baby. He was her soft spot. Her rock. “My boy.” The grandchildren – special gifts – she was so proud of them. And Dennis, her husband, he vexed her in the way a spouse does after being together for over 50 years. She loved him – so, so much.

She only cooked with salt and pepper. She loved burnt toast. Her meat was always cooked to death. Fiercely loyal, never said anything bad about anyone. Her handwriting was perfect – exactly they way they taught it in grade school – loopy, connected, neat. We always had birthday cards, Valentine’s cards, Halloween cards, Easter cards. She never sat still – she was always fiddling. Every Saturday, we’d get a call and the first words we’d hear were “Get up!” After we hung up, we’d get the second call about 30 seconds later – “One more thing.” She wore sweatshirts and turtlenecks in the summer because she was always cold. She thought I was a strange creature, but she loved me like one of her own. We always got turkey tetrazzini the week after Thanksgiving. Particular about her tinsel, she just smiled the first time I launched a glob of it on her tree like it was New Years confetti – and quietly fixed it after I left. Every summer, we went to the beach. The same beach she had gone to as a child.  She loved my blueberry cheesecake.  The girls always got a new ornament each year.  She loved to show us old pictures.  She was quiet, lived without fanfare, and touched so many.

She was always tickled when I sewed something.  “Aren’t you clever,” she would remark with a smile.  She bought my first serger, gave me vintage patterns from her mother in law and her mother, supplied me with the jumbo Mack-daddy Gutterman thread set, bought my dress form,  and always delighted in my adventures.  My stocking stuffer this year for Christmas was replacement blades for my rotary cutter – she always knew what I needed.

In the days after her death, I needed to keep busy.  To move my hands and quiet my mind.  I sewed.  A shirt.  Slowly, properly.  Topstitched.  Pressed.  I cried.  I grieved. Topstitched more.  Tears.  Button holes.  Buttons.  I thought about her. 

My grieving shirt.  It’s beautiful, simple, and all of the details are just-so.  Just they way she would have done it.  With care,  perfectly, and in an un-fussy way.  I will wear it and think of her – smiling, and saying, “Aren’t you clever.”  


12 thoughts on “Sewing and grieving…

  1. What a beautiful tribute to your mother in law. I get a strong sense of her from your words. I’m so sorry she’s gone; it sounds like she loved you well even if she didn’t know what to make of you at first 🙂

    It was a much smaller loss, but our beloved old kitty got sick a few months ago and we made the terrible decision to euthanize him. When I was watching over him, looking for signs of recovery but trying not to hover, I chipped away at my husband’s jacket. It was the perfect project to lose myself in when I needed to. Creation can be such a comfort. Thinking of you.

  2. What a beautiful post. I’m very sorry for your family’s loss. Grieving is not only an emotional but a physical process. You are very clever. I know your memories of her will always be with you.

  3. So sorry to hear this Tommie. I understand what you are going through, having lost my Dad a few weeks ago. Smile at your memories, they keep her spirit alive.

  4. Sorry for your loss. Finding the words to comfort someone when they are grieving is very difficult. Thoughts and prayers for you and the family to get through this tough time.

  5. You have my condolences. Grief is so hard. I hope writing and sharing it has helped a little. Your mother-in sounded like an amazing person. How lucky to have known her.

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