Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Hats Off

She was told in early December of last year that she had three months to live. By the time we met her in March, Helen was one week shy of the date. "She's just looking for people to knit with her for an hour or so a week"; that's what the activities director at the assisted living center said when I responded to a phone message. "She's already a really good knitter, but no one here knits. We're mostly an Alzheimer's facility." That's how Brenda and I wound up knitting with Helen on Friday mornings.

It's a wonderful way to pass time for all of us. We sit and knit and chat. Helen knits a little bit but mostly now, she just wants to talk or to listen to us talk. While we're there, we're treated like royalty by the staff. "There are fresh baked cookies over here", "Can I get you some coffee or a soda?" Often, other residents come sit at the table just to see what's going on. Helen always shows off our work. Everyone there knows about Helen's knitting; they know that Helen has been knitting baby hats for the past several years. Up until this recent diagnosis she lived in Arizona with her son and knit upwards of 580 baby hats in three years which were sent back to Minnesota and donated to infant nurseries through the Visiting Nurse Association. Know she knits hats for staff members, babies born to staff member's families, other siblings of these babies - basically, you want a hat, Helen will knit it. She must knit a lot when we're not around because there are always quite a few finished ones on Fridays, even though she barely knits a few rounds with us. Regardless, both Brenda and I love this time so much.

The past couple of Friday mornings Helen hasn't felt like coming down to knit. Either she was visiting with her son or she was too tired. This morning I got a phone call from the assisted living center. Helen passed away yesterday afternoon, quietly, in her room, with her son by her side. The've saved her final hat at the center. I'm going over there this week to - I don't know - I guess, say goodbye, say a prayer - just something.