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February 19, 2009

This Wonderful Life

A prayer with moving hands

Almost five years ago, when I was undergoing chemotherapy, my good friend and priest Teresa taught me to knit.

Teresa is an amazing knitter who can dash off a sweater in a darkened movie theater between exposition and denouement. I am not that kind of knitter, but I deeply appreciate the meditative qualities of a good knitting session.

In addition to teaching me to knit and purl, she also shared with me a book about a group of women who knitted prayer shawls for people diagnosed with cancer. Having been the beneficiary of afghans created by similarly philanthropic knitters and crocheters, I was instantly inspired by what this groupáwas doing.

Sometimes, when one of the knitters began a project, she knew who the recipient would be. Sometimes, a member would start a project, and while she was knitting, she would learn of someone who had received a diagnosis. Sometimes, the knitter would never know who would receive the shawl.

No matter. With every movement of the needles, these knitters imbued their projects with prayers for healing and serenity and love. When each project was complete, the entire group would pass it around and say a short prayer over it.

After learning about this prayer practice, I immediately went out and bought some very cozy, comforting chenille yarn and began a shawl project. I worked on it frequently, even while sitting in my oncologist’s clinic attached to an IV pole getting my own chemotherapy. Let’s just say the end result was, um, ``folksy.’’ In fact, my work was too crude to inflict upon someone who was undergoing treatment. It would have been insult to injury.

So I started another piece - not as a prayer shawl, but just as something fun. I chose a fuzzy eyelash yarn that blends hot pinks, bright oranges and purples. It doesn’t exactly fit into my own neutral wardrobe, but it did match the pink wig I used to wear when my hair jumped ship.

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