My Prayer Shawl

That hand-knit wrap had given her such comfort. Why did she give it away?

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- Posted on Feb 17, 2015

Lou reaches for her shawl every morning.

Pain. That’s what scared me most about the surgery I was facing at the end of December. I’d never had an operation before and I had no idea what to expect. The doctor told me that some pain after a hysterectomy was normal and that it might take six weeks before I felt like myself again. He was trying to reassure me, but by the time I got home from the pre-op appointment, I was shaking.

I headed straight for my bedroom, for the recliner where I prayed every morning. I sat down and, by reflex, reached behind me for my prayer shawl. It was one of a kind, handmade in a gorgeous range of pastel colors—mauve, pink, green, blue, gray, like the predawn sky.

I needed to feel its softness around me, to feel the love and prayers that had been knit into it. That had always brought me comfort, even when my previous husband was dying.

But all I felt was the back of the recliner. I forgot. I’d given the shawl to the daughter of my good friend Kristin here in Minnesota.

Kristin was like a sister to me. When my husband died, she was the one who had held me while I cried. So when Kristin told me how worried she was about her teenager, I wanted to help her the way she’d helped me. Sophie was battling anorexia and depression, and really suffering.

The idea came to me almost immediately. Not that I didn’t struggle with it. The shawl meant a lot to me, and I didn’t want to part with it. She needs this more than you do. Deep down I knew that was true.

I put the shawl in a gift bag and wrote a note to go with it. “I don’t know why there is sadness in this world. However, I have learned that there are two things that can help us survive—friendship and prayer. On one of the darkest days of my life—the day my husband was dying—a friend of mine drove three hundred miles to give me this handmade treasure. When you’re scared—when you feel alone—wrap this shawl around you.”

A few weeks later Kristin e-mailed me. “Each evening Sophie goes to her room and wraps the shawl around her. It gives her such peace. Thank you.”

Plenty of people have problems far worse than yours, I reminded myself now, settling into the recliner. Maybe if I prayed for them, it would take my mind off my surgery. I asked for a full recovery for Sophie. Strength for Kristin. And for Sandy, a friend from my prayer group in Florida, where I lived for part of the year. She was going through a rough time.

My fear didn’t recede. It only grew worse during the days that followed. Minnesota was in the midst of the worst winter I could remember, and even the weather filled me with foreboding. Something was going to go wrong with my surgery, I was sure.

December 27 I woke to yet another snowstorm. I checked my e-mail and there was a note from Sandy. “I sent you a small gift,” she wrote. “The UPS man assured me they’d be able to get it to you even in the snow.”

I couldn’t help but smile. Sandy had lived in Florida all her life. She just figured that when it snowed, everything shut down. Well, not in Minnesota. The UPS man delivered the package as promised.

I took Sandy’s gift out of the box and caught my breath. It wasn’t a small gift at all. She’d knitted me a shawl out of the softest yarn, in mauve, pink, green, blue, gray—the colors of the sky before dawn. Identical to the one I’d given away.

I wrapped the shawl around me, and in that moment, all my fear left me. I knew my surgery would go smoothly, and the pain wouldn’t be anything I couldn’t handle.

I e-mailed Sandy to thank her and asked, “By the way, is there a kit for prayer shawls?”

“No,” she replied. “I spent a long time in the yarn store wondering what yarn, pattern and colors would be best for you. I hope I guessed right.”

Guessed? The shawl was an even greater gift than I’d thought.

Would you like to knit your own prayer shawl? Here's how!

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