Knitting a Life – for Gail Jenne

Gail, son-in-law Perry Rath, daughter Taisa and Gail’s amazing, wonderful husband Richard

When the Jennes moved into the house on Park Road, just up the way from our old home on Driftwood Road, we didn’t have any idea how much the family would enrich our lives. We became part of their joyful and sometimes chaotic gatherings and began to create our own family rituals with them – birthday dinners, Christmas tree outings, the hanging of prayer flags, picnics in freezing weather. Morels and cranberries. Rituals that shifted over the years but always re-emerged when visits brought us together.

You all know the many ways in which Gail brought joy to us, but there’s one in particular that I share, I think, with her sister Cathy. Gail would embrace whatever knitted gift we gave her, no matter how kooky it appeared. On Gail, everything looked just right. And so, it is to knitting that I turn to speak of her.

The slip knot that begins a knitting project is a tender thing. So fragile. One tug the wrong way and the knot falls open and vanishes. Tied around a knitting needle, it holds firm. Strong enough to anchor the hundred thousand stitches it might take to make a cozy sweater or blanket. Row by row a thread is pulled through the loop below to add another link, each one a fragile connection with the ones on either side, the ones before and the ones after. An exercise in hope, in trust. The shape emerges from the increases and decreases, the gaps for lace, the layers for cables, each pattern a unique collection of twists and turns and colours brought to vivid life by the knitter.

So it is at birth. When we emerge from our mothers to become air breathers, we are anchored, finally, into our own bodies, and begin the process of creating ourselves. Each breath we take, the air pulled in, looped through the blood vessels of our bodies, and pushed out again, is like one of those knitted stitches. All the breaths knit together into a life. One long cord miraculously ravelling us up into the bright and beautiful garment we each become.

And just as the umbilical cord was cut at our beginning, so is the breath that tethers us to this world cut at the end. Gail, now that your wonderful lungs that filled so many hearts with their beautiful music, after maybe half a billion breaths, are at rest, we will miss you in so many ways. You may no longer need that unique garment you threaded together for us, but its shape, its colours, its memories will remain in all the hearts you’ve touched.

Love you girl! Have a wonderful journey. And if you’re able, maybe drop us a line from time to time.

As for us, we’ll be listening to that Green Grocers CD for as long as we last.

Lynn and Sheila

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