In Memoriam: My First Full-Size Afghan

IMG_6697I’ve crocheted a lot of receiving- and crib-size blankets, but this is the first full-sized afghan I have completed. I believe it is the colors of the Bears football team. (I don’t follow football, so I could be wrong.)

This blanket has a back story.

It all started last April during our village-wide garage sales. I was trolling for sales on Thursday afternoon in the rain. (The sales officially started on Friday, but everyone knows that the really serious salers are out in force on Thursdays–even when it’s raining.) There were signs directing me to this sale, and the garage door was open but under a tarp. I decided to check it out anyway. Some of my favorite finds have been under tarps on rainy sale days.

Inside the garage on tables and plywood sheets supported by sawhorses was an entire household from dish clothes to the pictures off of walls. I learned from the Dad and Mom running the sale that this was the estate of their 42-year-old daughter who had died of some type of brain cancer that had recurred throughout her body as the years passed. She had been diagnosed and treated as a young girl–when she was maybe 8 or 9 years old. The doctors did their best but gave her less than a year to live.

She lived to the age of 42, losing bits and pieces of her body as she fought the cancer. There was a telephone for a person without a voice for sale that she had used because they had to remove her larynx during one of these battles. My questions about this phone triggered their telling me their daughter’s story.

After the diagnosis, she lived her life as fully as possible, because even though the old saying may be sappy, she did choose to live every day as if there were no tomorrow. She had a good man who loved her and took her all over the country on his Harley, until she was too sick to ride with him anymore. She also made dozens of afghans for family and friends. She left many behind, and most of them went to a homeless shelter and were given away to people who needed them or now are being used in a common area for the comfort of the people who stay there.

They sold most of her stash of yarn that day. I bought several big bags of yarn and some other items to make into baby blankets to donate to a local hospital through our church. I started on one of those baby blankets right away and found I needed one more color. Returning to the sale a couple days later to buy more, I found all the yarn had been sold, but the family wanted to talk to me about something else.

In a big tub at the back of the garage was a bunch more yarn and a special unfinished project. She had been making an afghan in the colors of her nephew’s favorite team when she died. It was a simple, straight double crochet pattern. They asked me if I could finish it for them. I took a look at it and told them that I could finish the blanket if they could find me the hook she was working with and the rest of the yarn for that project. I also told them that it might take me a while. They were grateful I said yes and gave me not only the yarn and needle, but the rest of their daughter’s stash of yarn and needles. I didn’t really need anymore yarn or needles, but I didn’t want to appear churlish or give the appearance of not appreciating their generosity. (Most of the yarn and needles will go to a young girl I know who just started crocheting but can’t afford supplies, and the rest I will make into baby blankets to donate.)

I started work on the blanket immediately. I first had to IMG_6698unravel about 8-10 inches of work. It was obvious that she had been very sick when she crocheted this area. I had to work my way down to a part of the blanket that had no skipped stitches. There was still a good portion of her work to form a foundation for mine. I had five oversized skeins of variegated yarn to work with.

A couple of months passed, and I got a call from the mother, IMG_6693asking in a very nice and roundabout way how I was progressing because they were having the daughter’s memorial service that weekend. I assured her that I was on my last big skein and would soon be ready to put the border on the blanket and that I’d finish in two to three weeks.

Two weeks later, I completed the border and wove in the IMG_6692last loose end on a sunny Saturday afternoon then called to see if it would be okay to deliver the afghan that day. They let me in the front door and stopped in their split foyer. The walls were covered with pictures of children and families. They pointed out and identified all of their children and grandchildren–and great grandchildren! I saw a picture of the daughter and her boyfriend and the child she had lost to SIDS. I was impressed that while these people didn’t gloss over their losses neither did they dwell on them.

I pulled the afghan out of the clear plastic zipper bag to show them. I was concerned about it not being big enough. They almost didn’t seem interested in how it looked. I was inwardly surprised until the mother exclaimed, “This will probably never come out of the zipper bag. He will just keep it displayed on a shelf–as a memento, you know. He won’t use it as a blanket!” I was dumbfounded. I had envisioned it spread on a young guy’s bed or as something warm for him to cover up with while watching football this fall. This wasn’t just about tying up loose ends. It was a reminder of someone lost to them and yet present in memory.

It was a small memorial.


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