Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Scarf

On Christmas eve, my twelve-year-old niece was wearing one of those fuzzy-looking scarves, the kind made out of that yarn with all the long hairs. You know what I mean, right? Clearly I don’t knit. But the point remains that I instantly loved her white scarf and thought an off-white one just like it would perfectly complete my Christmas eve outfit. After the service, I told her I was envious of her simple and beautiful accessory and wished I had one just like it.

The next morning, my family opened our Christmas presents. Under the tree was a box from my husband’s Aunt Joan (pronounced “Jo-Ann,” not “Jone”) who lived in California.

Unlike me, Joan was an accomplished knitter and in the box was a warm winter hat for each of the “boys,” black for my husband and orange for Gavin, his favorite color. For Eiledon there was a fuzzy pink scarf and matching hat. For me, there was a long, off-white scarf of the type I had, only the evening before, decided would be the perfect accessory. I was deeply touched and somewhat amazed that the woman had read my mind before I even knew my mind, and had done so from a thousand miles away.

I wrote Joan an effusive thank-you note and shared the Christmas eve story of my niece’s scarf. I wanted her to know how much the gift meant to me and how I appreciated her skillful handiwork.

For the next couple of weeks, I proudly wore my new scarf with my bright red coat, but no one said a word. Not a single comment on this addition to my winter-wear. I supposed a scarf was a scarf if you didn’t know the story behind it, so I would proclaim “Look at this gorgeous scarf! Dan’s Aunt Joan knitted this for me!” And to those who had been in attendance on Christmas eve I pointed out, “Remember what I said about Rachel’s scarf and how I wanted one just like it? Isn’t that AMAZING?”

January came and went, and then February trudged in and the scarf began to be simply taken for granted as part of my winter ensemble. And still, no one ever said a thing about it.

We had gotten word over the new year that Joan’s throat cancer had returned. Now, post surgery, she was doing poorly and the cancer was far more aggressive than it had previously been. But there was no clear indication of how bad things really were until we got the call on March 1st that she had died peacefully at home that afternoon.

Dan and I were thrown for a loop. We had sort of had this vague notion that she was not well, but I don’t think it had occurred to either of us that we might lose her so quickly. We discussed it with the kids in a kind of numb shock and they, having known her only a little and mostly through holiday cards and gifts, weren’t sure what to make of it, though Gavin did express quite eloquently that he was very sad that Gammeltante had died.

After supper, I shuffled off to a meeting, after receiving assurances that Dan wouldn’t rather I skip it and stay home. The two hours of my meeting passed joyfully and I could step away from the confusion and grief that had followed me there. 

On the way home, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up some fruit. I dragged my heels through the place, not wanting to get home too quickly, partly, to be honest, because I was hoping Dan would have the kids in bed by the time I got there, but partly because of the sadness. I stared at the various fruit for a lot longer than was warranted for normal selection. At last I made my choices and proceeded to the check-out.

There were no other shoppers that I could see, and the young woman and man at the check-out counter were casually leaning on it and chatting. When I appeared to pay for my items, they snapped to attention and waited on me.

As soon as the woman’s eyes lit on my scarf, she said, “That is a beautiful scarf. It looks really warm and cozy. Does that mean it’s cold out there?”

Casual conversation. Good customer service. But why the scarf? Why not the bright red coat that so often draws comment? Why not the tiny wallet-on-a-string that I call a purse? Someone had, at last, noticed and appropriately complimented my beautiful, hand-made, off-white, long, fuzzy scarf. I had a flash of insight. Joan was somewhere nearby, smiling.

I almost said something about Joan’s passing in response to the compliment, but then chose to keep it and ponder it in my heart. Instead I made some inane remark about the cold, gathered my fruit and headed to my car. I was smiling the whole way.


  1. Thank you, my dear friend. I needed to read just this right now, when I am filled with the petty frustrations and angst of my day. Your writing is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it with me.


  2. Thank you Rebekah for this blog/message. My father died on December 20th and there are times I feel his presence or his spirit near by. I think he trys to encourage me to have faith. I'm grateful I am able to feel today and not needing to run away. Love the feeling of gratitude in your story.
    Mary Lee

  3. This is great Bek - I appreciate you sharing these thoughts and stories about Joan's effects on our lives, however indirect or direct they may appear. She was and is one of my favorite people ever.

    Nate Moir

  4. Rebekah, this a beautiful story, a beautiful message, and I can only imagine a beautiful scarf. "Simple" words are touching people in deep and beautiful ways; you are sharing love. I imagine Joan would be most pleased.