Mother was not expected to live much longer. But she never spoke of death. She kept knitting Christmas presents and making plans to see all her family.
One day I took her to the hospital for cancer treatments, and a nurse told her about a good place to buy yarn at the woolen mills nearby. Mother wanted me to take her there.
“Are you sure you feel up to it?” I knew car rides were painful for her.
“Yes. Let’s go now while we’re out and I have the energy.”
“So we set off in my old Volvo through crowded and confusing city streets. At one point we found ourselves driving in circles. Mother held her sides as she laughed. If it hurt, she didn’t let on.
At the factory store, we found wool yarns dyed in every imaginable hue. Mother exclaimed over the colors and textures. “I get excited just thinking about new projects. Knitting is fun because each pattern is a new challenge. I’d love to make these sweaters.”
She thumbed through a pattern book, then replaced it on the rack. “After I finish the afghan I’m working on now, I’ll knit for the grandchildren.” Her tone indicated there would be plenty of time.
Inspired by Mother’s enthusiasm, I selected a basket full of yarns. Waiting in line to pay for them, I glanced at Mother. She stood near the woolen fabrics. A cloud seemed to have crossed over her. She was frowning. How tired she looked, how thin, how old (cancer had done that, though she was only 48 years old).
The joy of my purchase vanished. Leaving the shopping cart, I walked over to her. “Mother, here’s a chair. Why don’t you sit down?”
“I think I will. I guess I should have taken a pain pill this morning, but I hoped I could get by without it.”
Returning to the cashier’s line, I thought, What are we doing here? Suddenly I resented the whole scene: bustling shoppers, busy clerks, long lines. What is the purpose of all this? I made my purchase and walked Mother to the car, sadly realizing time with her was coming to an end.
Later I watched Mother as she sat knitting a ski cap for my sister. I knew she often prayed as she knitted. The long blue plastic needles kept crossing and interlocking the loops of green and white yarn. In a similar way her prayers were connecting link upon link of loving requests to the heart of God on behalf of those she loved.
She died about two months later. Mother loved life and held to it as long as she could. But even more she loved God and the people He put into her life. That love enabled her to endure, believe, and hope to the last.
~ Catherine Lawton
p.s. This true story first appeared in the book, My Turn to Care, compiled by Marlene Bagnull. First published by Thomas Nelson in 1994, it was reprinted by Ampelos Press. In 2012 the book was re-released by OakTara.
p.p.s. It is still hard for me to read and share these memories of my mother’s suffering and my loss of her when I was in my twenties. God has done so much deep healing in me through the years. Yet sadness can still wash over me and I long to see her. I know she’s completely free and whole and joyous with Jesus. As I get older I don’t want to spend too much time looking back, but keep looking forward in hope and anticipation.