The Hand-Knit Shawl, a Linking Object and Labor of Love

My husband was in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit for weeks. Our minister came to visit him and she had two bulging gift bags. One contained a brown, hand-knit shawl for my husband and the second a blue hand-knit shawl for me. Anonymous members of the church Caring Crafters group made the shawls and the gifts touched my husband. He wouldn’t let his shawl out of his sight.

“Where is my shawl?” he would ask, looking worriedly about the room. “That’s a special gift and I don’t want to lose it.”

Day shift and night shift nurses became aware of the shawl’s importance and comfort. It was practical, too, and my husband often asked a nurse to place the shawl over his shoulders when he was chilly. The term “linking object” is most often used in reference to death, an object that connects the bereaved person to the departed. For my husband, the shawl was, and continues to be, an object that connects him to the church he has belonged to for decades. In fact, he has belonged to the church longer than anyone else.

When my husband transferred from the Intensive Care Unit to the rehabilitation floor the shawl went with him. As before, he would ask “Where is my shawl?” And when my husband was dismissed from the hospital and transferred to a nursing home for rehabilitation, the shawl went with him again. It kept him warm after a bath, when he was napping, and when he was eating in the rehab dining room.

My husband is home now and the shawl is always within sight. Because his legs are paralyzed, he couldn’t return to our old house, and returned to a wheelchair-friendly townhome I built for him. Most nights, he drifts off to sleep with the shawl over his shoulders. “That’s a special gift,” he keeps saying. Tears come to his eyes when he says this and seeing his tears brings tears to my eyes.

Every stitch is a link of love and the shawl arrived just when he needed it most. Linking objects, whether they connect you with a deceased or living person, provide a measure of comfort. You remember that person, picture scenes in your mind, and feel some of the feelings you felt before. Though a linking object may generate tears, in the end, the love you have for that person prevails, and that is a blessing.

 

Harriet Hodgson

More Articles Written by Harriet

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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  • Anne Gorman says:

    What a touching story, It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing this with us. Your journey has been long and it is good to know that your husband is now home. I have always loved the idea of “linking objects.”