Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Fabric of Our Lives

Another blogger asked recently what to offer someone when they lose a child. This post was inspired by her question. 

I will never forget the moment I heard the news that Mr.4444's dad had passed away (suddenly and quite unexpectedly, of a massive heart attack). I have never been more shocked. In the days that followed, the sense of loss was profound; his passing affected me like no other and impacted our family significantly.  Although I was 40 years old, this was the first time someone close to me had passed away, and my heart still has the scar to show for it.

That kind of funeral experience was new to me; I'd been a comforter but never one of the bereaved family members. I didn't really know what to do to prepare for it, but something led me to a department store in search of plain, white, cloth handkerchiefs. I bought a pack of ten. Somehow I knew that a simple cotton fabric would bring a measure of comfort.

When my heart ached the most that day, I shed my tears into a soft cloth, not some paper tissue that people blew snot into and discarded. It's difficult to explain, but it was like I had reverence for my tears; I wasn't ready to let them go, you know?  That handkerchief gave me reassurance that I could hold onto my grief as long as I needed to, I guess, and that was comforting.

After the funeral, I didn't wash my hanky; I couldn't. It went up in a cupboard until I took it out two years later, at my own dad's funeral and soaked it anew.

Years later, that hanky sits in a box in a closet someplace. It might even be clean; I don't remember if I've washed it or not. I do remember that that simple piece of cotton fabric helped start the healing of my heart a time when little else could. When my friend Molly's teenage son passed away, I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do to take her pain away, but I could give her family's tender hearts a little bit of comfort by offering them cloth hankies. A tiny gesture...hopefully, it made a difference.

I have a collection of other new, white handkerchiefs in a closet, washed and ready. Some day, I'm going to get around to embroidering some type of message on them. For now, though, they await assignment.

This post has taken me weeks to write, for some reason, but I'm glad I waited on the Publish button, because tonight, just now, I finally figured out what this hanky business is about for me. Hankies are symbols of the past. Our fathers and grandfathers used them. My own dad was pretty much never without one. When you fell and hurt your knee, when you had ice cream on your cheek and no napkins handy, when a park bench needed dusting off, a dad or grandpa pulled a hanky out of his pocket like a superhero and took care of it. When he toiled so hard that sweat ran into his eyes, a dad whipped out a hanky and mopped his brow. (Yeah, they sometimes blew their noses in them, too, but for some magical reason, my dad's always seemed clean.) Without a hanky in his pocket, a man's work uniform (white or blue collar) was incomplete.  That hanky doubled as a peek-a-boo shield for cranky babies, as well as a bunny rabbit for crabby kids in church, and I'm sure that many a bride has found her father's hanky to be a lifesaver when the tears took her by surprise on that walk down the aisle.

It all makes sense now; that's totally it. For me, a hanky is a symbol of love, strength, and competence; it's a small scrap of fabric that fixes everything, or at least supplies a bandage until we are healed.

To meet a blogger who makes a difference in this world donating handkerchiefs to grieving moms, visit For Your Tears.

1 comment:

  1. Wow...just, wow! I am sure that your gift(s) will mean so much to their recipients.


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