Two weeks ago a friend and her family experienced a sudden, unexpected and devastating loss. I wanted to reach out to her with words, but felt that anything I said would seem trite & meaningless in the wake of what she was experiencing. There is always the impulse to want to DO something to help, when truly, there is not much to do beyond being present and giving time and space to grieve. Friends set up a schedule to bring meals, and so I signed up; but my heart reached to do more.
Then I remembered an essay in a book by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. called My Grandfather's Blessings; in the essay, she discusses the work of an organization in Tacoma, Washington called BRIDGES which offers grief support for children. As part of their programs, each child and adult who comes in contact with services at BRIDGES could receive a small velvet or velour heart as "something tangible and comforting to hold on to." Dr. Remen describes the hand-sewn hearts in this way:
Small enough to be put in a little pocket and take to school to hold and rub, these soft little hearts give children permission to hold their own hearts tenderly and to grieve. Children carry them for as long as they need to, finding comfort in the softness when thoughts of their loss might otherwise overwhelm them.
And so I sewed three hearts -- one for my friend and one for each of her children.
If you would like to make a heart for someone you know, the instructions are simple: start by cutting a paper pattern in the shape of a heart, and then, using the pattern, cut out two hearts from a soft velvet or velour fabric.
Sew around the edges by hand or machine, leaving an opening of at least an inch. Use the opening to turn and stuff the heart, and then use small stitches to close.
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
-- e. e. cummings