Par for the course of this life, we do a lot of fixing here.
I’ve often thought that our lives would have a completely different shape if my Fellow Man wasn’t such a capable handy man. The groundhogs chewed a wire under my mother’s outbuilding, where we keep a freezer of goodies. He’s going to dig it out and fix it. It wasn’t a day for doing that the last time we were in town, so he fired up the chainsaw and took care of some of her fallen limbs in the yard. The chainsaw was leaking fuel. So now, he’ll fix that too.
So I’m tackling some mending, too. I’m no fancy seamstress. My stitches are serviceable but not particularly neat. I don’t necessarily know the lingo, so I have to stretch my brain when I read how-to mend this or that. But I’m finding it’s a good sort of work to do while sitting on the couch with Lulah over some school books. I can be occupied, not too much over her shoulder, but available when she needs me, and still being productive in a meaningful, thrifty way.
When we’re finished with our clothes around here, not much is left for the thrift store. With the exception of the kids’ clothes which seem to get shared over and over with each other, they’re more or less used up. I’m trying to make the most of the ones that really suit us best.
And to be honest, it’s a pleasure. The shirt I just mended was a hand-me-down from one of my best girlfriends who has awesome taste in clothes. It’s a simple silk thermal. Too sheer to wear alone, but perfect as jammies, or under a sweater or vest. Not fancy, so I don’t mind getting sweaty in it, but soft to touch and light as a feather. There was a hole in the armpit that grew until it was unmanageable. Well worth fixing.
As I sew, I enjoy the feeling of the cloth in my hands. It’s texture and weight. And I enjoy watching the open hole being mended. What started coming in two is joined back into one.
The working blue jeans of my Fellow Man will prove a little more challenging. They have these nice gussets to help out with the hours or squatting and crawling around in the garden to come. Not all blue jeans are made like that, and most other pants are too thin to last for long at that intensity. After a couple practice runs on the simpler items, I will be up for the good effort.
There are some things I’ve learned from the process. I watch the fabric around the mended spot. Is it strong? Will it tear again quickly? Have I mended the seam far enough into the old seam line? Does this need a patch instead? It is also fun to find other mended areas. I once went to patch a dress handed down from another friend, and found it had been radically altered in its past life. There’s information in the weaving of strings. And as I sew, I’m leaving more messages.
There’s more mending going on around here than just in my sewing bag. As I begin the process of closing out my step-mother’s estate proceedings, I feel the changes wrought in that process. I guess it feels like I’m sewing that hole too, and feeling the qualities of the fabric of life.
In the days immediately following Susan’s death, I felt like a huge hole had been torn inside of me. The sensation was irreparable and terrible. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows this feeling. The shock and sadness rolled over me in waves, sometimes predictable, sometimes like a rogue wave, out of nowhere. But, as time has passed, the ride has become less intense. With the coming of Spring, I feel myself able to breathe more freely, even as I examine the places in me that felt so torn and raw from that loss.
People’s lives get woven together. The influence of our parents, partners, children, and friends all get bound, tight or loose, smooth or bumpy, together into the fabric that becomes our life. The color and texture of Susan’s personality have been woven into my days from the very beginning. And my threads were woven into her life too. She was in her mid twenties when I was born, and she never lost track of me after that. We shared a lot.
Her death tugged at every piece of me. I still miss her physical presence. I miss her voice, and the simple act of calling her up and making visits here or there, sharing the children with her. But I’m learning something as time passes. When I drop deeper into the quiet places inside me, I find her there. I can see her clearly. I can hear her voice, and even get an earful of her opinions. I can pull those threads forward and sometimes see through her eyes. And, I can still learn from her.
I learn to not harbor regrets, and not to withhold love. Susan believed what she believed un-apologetically, but she also didn’t hold it against anyone who disagreed with her, at least, not for long. She didn’t let differences make gaps in her friendships, and she would reach across any gap that formed. She gave what she could give to those who needed it, without hesitation, expectation, or frilly gesture, with un-adorned generosity. There’s a lot to remember, a lot to learn from that example.
She also taught me to learn from the people I love. I can remember her quizzing me about things I was into as I was growing up. She would listen, not necessarily understanding much at first, but then she would pick up my interest in her own mind and heart, and bring it back to me later with a question, an agreement, or a challenge to help me go further. She may have only started into my study to be closer to me, but she also let whatever information I shared grow her.
I remember, one of our last visits, she had been reading something about the organic food movement, and she had been following the blog. She said, “You know, you’re really onto something with this seed-saving thing. That’s a really big deal.” And it touched me to know that she was paying attention, and actually studying what we were up to. From here I can look back and see that she did that with so many of the children in her life (most of us are grown now). It inspires me – that kind of active love, and openness to learning.
So, I am heartened, to be able to remember these beautiful and admirable qualities of this person who was so central to the course of my life. And to still find her so alive in my heart. It is in the continued weaving of our lives that we carry forward the personality, the color, the feeling, of those who we’ve loved, who are no longer walking the earth with us.
There doesn’t seem to be much way around the initial pain that accompanies death, for the living. But as I examine what at first felt like a rip in my inner world, I find no hole to mend. Instead, there is the fabric of life, made stronger again by experience, and by love. I will not stop missing Susan, out here in the world, but she’s not really gone from me. Not one bit.