Shirt off our backs!

5 09 2011
Often Awesome episode 13

Watching episode 13, its hard not to think of my grandmother.  My mom’s mother lived in the hills near the border of Ohio and Kentucky in an intensely rural area, where your nearest neighbor was a half mile or more away, where dogs ran wild, and deer were your frequent companions when you would walk through the damp, autumn woods, in a land thick with copper leaves.  She was a big woman, strong underneath layers of cozy grandma cushion.  A simple and amazing cook. Our holidays were often spent around the matriarchal clan, sitting near an iron coal burning stove that gushed heat like a gate to the furnace of a train.  The ladies would shuck corn, snap beans, peel potatoes while chatting about the happenstances up and down the hills and hollers; a pleasant mix of warmth, cooking smells, and female voices that would simmer with laughter and ‘ya know’s.  My grandmother was also quite the seamstress and quilt maker and I can remember the oohs and ahs the day she finally got herself a machine to help her make those quilts; after so many years of doing them painstakingly by hand.

I remember the warmth of them when sleeping over in the autumn and winter, layers of thick heavy comfort, that shocked you with a slippery icy bath at first, but then roasted you in the dark when you slept.  My grandmother shared these skills with her daughters and my mother and aunt were both good at everything from fixing tears in children’s clothes, to knitting gifts of blankets for new babies, or sitting in with Grandma to finish a quilt she was working on.

To this day my bed is thick with quilts woven by these women, when the dark hour grow longer and the fingers of autumn turn cold.

When I saw this episode and watched them weaving those quilts together I was touched, astonished, and impressed, for many reasons.  The first is of course the return to the idea that we do what we can with what we have.  The second is how amazing it is to make something so nourishing and labor intensive for someone you care about, that will be a comfort, a reminder, and a shield in the coming days…the horrible reality of this disease being much of your life trapped in a chair and bed, being unable to cover yourself or make simple adjustments..imagine how cold you get sitting in one place without moving (in any season other than summer)…now think about what it is to not be able to move…Now how amazing is it to get a quilt that is made of love, passion, and warmth?

At the time I was first introduced to the Often Awesome series, I was living with an amazing woman who would come to support me in ways that I am still finding words for.  She helped me find my balance after my mother died, shared with me a passion for cycling, helped me on numerous projects for the Iron Horse Challenge, donated to the cause, rode several years in the IHC, walked with my family on the walks, supported my fight against ALS at every turn.  She brought her family into helping, her friends volunteered and joined the fight; I still receive their support and cherish them for it.  She helped me process my frustration and my anger, helped me to find a ‘tone’ in my messages that was compassionate and measured and was constantly bringing me good, practical, and logical ideas.  She also taught me a great deal about compassion, social activism, and social awareness.

Oh, did I mention she was also quite ‘crafty’?

My mom never got to watch me make my first cross stitch, or sew stockings for my niece and nephew for Christmas, but I think she would have been amused and proud.  She also would have loved my friend Audra for all of her many gifts and talents. Yet I think she really would have loved Audra for her amazing loving heart and like-minded compassionate and nurturing character.

There are many places where I think we lose the words for thanking those we love for the amazing things they do for us.  In much of normal life we are humbled and bashful sometimes about receiving such gifts and this only grows more intense when life throws us tragedies and hardships, suddenly pitching us into deep wells of the emotional unknown.  To have out of the midst of those dark places, people emerge who radiate and transform that space with gifts of love, acceptance, and comfort is the most amazing gift of all.

Its often not easy to figure out how to thank those people or how to make them understand how much we love them for it.  This is true in places where communities come together to fight for a cause, when people donate what they have, and when you are simply supported for who you are.  There is always this need to express these thanks and so often the words seem insufficient.

The important part is that we try.

I want to be better at that; I have to be.  Too many amazing and lovely people deserve recognition for the support they have given to me and to my fight to find a cure.  So today I make a small step towards that by saying:

Thank you Often Awesome, for all the tremendous work, love, and the passion you have done to celebrate Tim and Kaylan’s love and all the support you offered to them through this terrible disease.  Thank you for your compassion and bravery, your honesty and creativity, and for reminding us all, we can come together in a community and fight for the lives of those we love; in so many ways.

Thank you Tim and Kaylan, for your blazing love, its clarity and voice, and your willingness to share it.  For being true to each other and to yourselves and for sharing your lives and your story, so we could be wiser, stronger, and more determined to cure this disease.

And a very special thank you to Audra Slocum, who has enriched my life, my journey, and my wisdom so that I could not only be a better person, but be better at finding a way to fight this war with a compassionate and vibrant heart.  For teaching me to reach outside of what I know.  For teaching me to cross-stitch.  And for being the wonderful and nourishing person you are.  I couldn’t have done this without you and I’m so grateful for your support in this fight.

audra and shawn als




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