My grandmother, who died just last year (will you check out her style?), had the most graceful passing I've ever seen or heard of. Fully cognitive until the very end of her well-lived eighty-five years, she had ample time to say goodbye to everyone before closing her eyes and slipping away. It was a beautiful thing, as her many children, grandchildren and great grandchildren came to her side, a few at a time, and gave her love and warmth in her final days and hours. We all shed tears, but she mostly smiled and relayed important information and advice she wanted to pass on. She was happy, fulfilled, proud, and entirely ready for what came next. I was amazed as I stood there with my children and she spoke to each of them, remembering everyone's names despite how many great-grandchildren there were for her to remember. "I'm sorry I won't be at Nutcracker this year, Calvin!" II'll never forget her saying, as I somehow restrained myself from sobbing, "but break a leg!" I can't tell you what a gift it was to all of us, and to me as I was able to truly thank her - though I had hoped she knew anyway - for all that she shared with me and taught me. She was after all, the very one who taught me to sew, and who tried to teach me to knit (it took a few more decades before that one stuck). Not to mention the gardening and cooking and canning! Oh, and hospital corners on my bed each morning - where would I be without that knowledge? (I jest. I haven't made a hospital corner since I last spent the night at her house.)
She was a remarkable woman till the very end, and I continue to hear tales of her last goodbyes - not dramatic or overly emotional, for she was neither of those things. But incredibly practical and loving, for she was those things with all of her being. Just recently my wonderful Aunt asked if I might be able to finish a pair of mittens that my grandmother began for her in the winter before she passed. My Nana gave her the mittens in progress, still on the needles, with an apology for not being able to finish them. Do you see what I mean? So practical! And loving, this woman! And so the ball of yarn was handed to my aunt, and now to me, ready to be finished, for Nana would never have wanted to waste time or materials. Indeed, that would be a great offense to her. There is no accompanying pattern because of course it is the pattern that is in her head after all those decades of making the same pair of mittens for so many people. Hundreds, easily, maybe more? And so, this is my challenge. A simple pair of knits that my Nana practically made in her sleep. With no pattern, though I think (hope?) I can wing it by looking at some finished pairs we have here (some in this post here) at home. And in yarn I'm not accustomed to but will most certainly knit with joy (or love, anyway).
This isn't our first collaboration - we made so very many things in our time together. Beginning when I was so little that my 'help' amounted to rearranging the pins on the pincushions like my littles do now (or more painfully, folding the tissue paper pattern pieces back up just so - oh, I hated that job!), to me taking the hand-off when she was unable to finish something (yes, we've done this sort of thing before!), and now to perhaps this last little thing we work on together. Though of course her influence is in everything I do. As I write this now and find myself unexpectedly tearful, I have to laugh, for I know she would not be so overly-sentimental and surely instead humored by my tears (and a little bit touched, I know). Because really, it's a matter of Waste Not, Want Not, isn't it? Yes, that and Love. These things she knew, and I try too.