Shifting Sands

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Shifting Sands

Life has seemed turbulent lately. Many of you will know that 2016 was a phenomenally tough year for me, for so many reasons. 2017 started with moving house, so more upheaval. By February I was planning everything I needed to do to get back to my usual crafting and studying activities. And then the big one hit … my mum was very suddenly diagnosed with a brain tumour.

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My view, as I took in the news.

It was soon clear that this was not going to be a long illness. There was no prospect of treatment, other than palliative care. For one who likes to navigate by festivals, I find it extraordinary to think that mum was diagnosed on Shrove Tuesday, died on Passion Sunday, and the last time I spent with her on Earth was on Mothering Sunday (which, coincidentally, was also my birthday). We will gather to celebrate her life during Holy Week. By the time Maundy Thursday dawns, the end of life rituals will be done. The grieving will continue, and will mellow over time.

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Mothering Sunday flowers from our last day together. When I turned for a last look before leaving, I saw that my daughter had laid one of the daffodils on mum’s bed.

It’s hard to know what I could say about my mum that would do her justice. She was my my first and most important teacher. She’s the one who taught me to knit, who brought the enduring love of yarn and the simple pleasure of handwork into my life. She’s mentioned in the first paragraph I ever wrote on this site, and how could it have been otherwise? It couldn’t. So profound is her spirit within me that she is here in every word. She was the recipient of my first every story skeins: Sunset Forest and A Quarter of Sherbet. Clearly, her influence stretches far beyond me and my little niche of creativity, but I start there because it’s what I come here to write about.

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A rainbow over the hospice.

It was my mum who bought me the Hook to Heal book for my last birthday. I have made so much of the healing power of crafting over this short and difficult journey. I have stitched, and hooked, and sewn by her bed. I could be with her, in ways we had been together hundreds of times before. We didn’t need to talk if there was nothing to say or mum needed a rest. But we had easy companionship and the joy of watching a creation take shape. She asked my daughter to make her a bag to hold her prayer stones. We stitched it together on the journey to see mum. I finished my Elise shawl when mum was ill. I had worked on it beside her, and shown her the beautiful colours in the yarn, and the patterns I was creating. I’ll wear it to her funeral next week.

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Beautiful stained glass windows in the hospital.

Before mum’s diagnosis I had started Scheepjes’ Hygge crochet along. I treated myself to the kit as a post-moving house present to myself. I didn’t know it would take on a much greater significance. I stitched so much of that piece by her bedside. Although I worked on other projects too, Hygge was immediately special. It was calming and beautiful, and really engaged my mum who admired it and insisted on showing it off to staff and patients alike!

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Hygge to week 7. This project was and continues to be a blessing for me and my mum.

When her prognosis came through I knew she would not see it completed. And I knew it was by now far too special to be anything other than a tribute piece to her. When she died, as I was stitching week 7, I embroidered her initials and dates into the piece.

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JAB 1947 – 2017

Mum touched so many people’s lives in so many different ways. I could not possibly list them all here. But I think the common theme through her life is a true understanding of what it means to serve people, and a clarity about why our service to others is important; about why people – and how we treat them – are important. The way she lived taught me formative lessons about living the life you want in the way you want: enjoying and embracing the things that are important to you, under the guidance of a strong and generous moral centre.

My mum went to University in Hull and used to tell me about the librarian: Philip Larkin. When I came to study for my GCSEs, one of his poems was in our anthology. I’ve always liked the last line, and though I am taking it out of context, I’d still like to think about it here. Larkin talks of his Schoolmaster, who “Dissolved. (Like sugar in a cup of tea.)” Now, my mum was far too much of a strong woman to dissolve in life. She wasn’t one to stay in the background. But when I think of her influence I see that although she is no longer here, everything she’s done for the last nearly-70 years leaves the world a sweeter place. Although we have a journey of grief to navigate, eventually those rough granules will dissolve too, and what we’ll be left with are the sweet memories, and the knowledge that we have been the luckiest of families, to have such a person in our lives.

Goodbye mum. Love you always. xxx

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19 responses »

  1. I love that you embroidered her initials into your work. That’s gorgeous. I was working on my Doodler when mum died and I only completed it last year. I hate the design, but I can’t give it away because it holds memory of my last night with her.
    Anyway, this is really beautifully written and I enjoyed reading it. Sending so much love. You know where I am. X

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A beautiful tribute. You write so exquisitely. I am full of admiration for your relationship with your mother. Clearly a very special woman to inspire you so deeply.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Diana, this is an absolutely beautiful tribute to my wonderful cousin. She will always have a very special place in my heart and was a tower of strength to me when my dad passed away and my mum was ill. I’m so pleased that you have such a beautiful piece of work to remember her by. Love always. Elspeth xxx

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  4. I’m so sorry for your loss. My Mum died very suddenly 15 months ago (sudden death in epilepsy) and the speed is hard to come to terms with. I try not to think of her the last times I saw her – in the coffin and face down as she fell – but the last we saw her alive, enjoying herself and admiring my rainbow poncho.

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  5. You write with such beauty, it’s impossible not to feel what a wonderful person and mother your Mum was and the legacy she left and that you are continuing in making the world a better place and a more beautiful one. Much love to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Diana, what beautiful, heart rending words to celebrate your Mum, who clearly meant so very much to you. Your relationship sounds like a very precious gift, that will continue on. Much love to you all. Tracy xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh Diana, how beautifully you have written about this. Thank you for your craft in words, pictures and – crafts… I love that your mum is so evident in all of the above, and evidently always will be.
    Much love and peace to you and to all the family.
    Frances xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  8. George, borrowing Anne’s iPad. Your mum was the best of we four children. But I too see her life as dedicated to serving others. A person cannot be greater.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. So sorry, I met her once ( a friend of Nicola D from Leeds, and the gentle openness and sweetness was there for all to see… sending love to you and all the family xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Truly moving, Diana. I hope that the many memories you made with your Mum live on through your joint love of creativity, and that the Hygge piece may be a be a reminder for generations.

    Liked by 1 person

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