The Prayer Shawl: A Glimpse into the World of Support from Others

DSC_0119In recognition of APA’s Your Mind Your Body Mental Health Blog Day May 14th, 2014, I’ve decided to write about support.  Writing about support has lingered in my mind ever since I rediscovered the prayer shawl that my son had given me after my daughter’s last hospitalization a few years ago.

When everything in our world seemed to crumble, in regard to our daughter’s mental health, it was my son who introduced me to the idea of support from others.  I didn’t realize it at the time.  I was so consumed by my own grief, sadness, sense of loss and the care of my loved one that I didn’t really think about much else.  Our family was in survival mode.  The last item on my list was support from others.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t think it crossed my mind. How could I reach out for support from anyone when I was so busy trying to wrap my brain around the fact that my daughter needed help beyond what I was capable of providing as a mother?

Four years have somehow slipped by since that tumultuous time in our lives. We’ve moved on as individuals and as a family.  The good times and sad times are but mere memories, or snapshots if you will, of life lived.  Memories are tucked away in our preconscious minds, material objects from days gone by are stored as objects to be seen and on display, and some objects have been carefully put away.  For instance, a lighted, crystal salt lamp sits on a shelf as a reminder of the first family trip we took to Branson, Missouri after Kim’s last attempt.  It was purchased in Branson during that trip with purpose.  It sits with a warm, glowy presence on a shelf in our family living room as a testament to our family’s commitment to one another.  It’s rugged landscape represents the difficult times we experience as a family unit.  And it’s singularity as one piece of crystal salt represents how we always seem to come together when one of us is in need.  And then there are those items that are neatly and carefully stowed away like the prayer shawl.

I imagine, at this point, that you may be wondering what a prayer shawl is.  Within the next few paragraphs I’ll try to explain…

It was when I least expected it that I found my prayer shawl laying right where I had placed it years ago.  I was busy looking for a particular item, and I thought it might be in my hope chest.  I briskly walked to my room.  I was on a mission to find whatever it was at the time.  Once I got to the hope chest I leaned down and pressed the button to unlock the cedar chest.  As I pressed the button in and held it I lifted the heavy bench seat top.  As the chest opened I saw the shawl.  It’s vibrant magenta color caught my attention.  There it was…laying there…a carefully crocheted 2 ft. by 5 ft. piece of love.  As I pulled the shawl out of the cedar chest I noticed the carefully hand stitched label on one side of the shawl that identifies the church where it came from.  The shawl itself is bordered by an elegant, scalloped crocheted edge, and it is beautiful.  The lacy stitches and vivid color exude the thoughtful, loving and caring nature of the person who stitched it.  And somehow I was the blessed recipient of it.  But how?

It was during the time when Kim had attempted suicide.  Each of us, in our nuclear family, reacted very differently during her hospitalization as well as after.  The night before Kim was brought out of the coma, Paul had left.  He literally left.  He couldn’t take seeing his sister in a coma so through his tears, outside of Kim’s ICU room separated from her by a mere curtain and beyond earshot, he said his goodbyes to Bill, Katlin and I, and he headed out of the hospital.  He called me later in the evening crying as he drove.  He said, “Mom, I’m so sorry.  I can’t take seeing Kim like that.  I had to leave.  I hope you and Dad understand.”  I told him, “I know.  I love you so much Paul!  You have to take care of yourself.  Just let Dad and I know how it’s going.  Please keep us posted.”  He replied, “I will Mom.”  I said, “I love you Paul.”  His last reply was, “I love you too Mom.  Bye.”

Later, I would learn that he had drove to a neighboring city to see a good friend.  He didn’t come back that night.  Instead, somewhere in a town close by my son sat in a church room surrounded by church goers and his friend praying that Kim would survive.  The healing support that Paul had found in a neighboring town made it’s way to our family and embraced us warmly.  When we reconnected with Paul, after that tearful night that he had decided to leave, he walked up to me and gently wrapped the beautiful, hand crocheted, magenta colored prayer shawl around my shoulders.  He then told me that when I was feeling sad and down that I could use it for comfort.  He told me that people at the church he attended make prayer shawls and that they had given one to Paul to give to me.  He said that the person who had given him the shawl had prayed over the shawl and asked for peace and healing for our particular situation.  What a beautiful gesture it was.  And what a loving son I have.  I felt joy and thankfulness well up within my tired and injured soul.  I felt a bit revived for the days ahead.

Paul’s method of coping brought wellness not only to him but to us as well.  Without knowing it Paul had delivered me more than a gift in the form of a prayer shawl.  He also gave me my first glimpse into the world of support from others beyond our family and friends.  I didn’t understand nor appreciate at the time how important that would be later on in Kim’s recovery.  My son, reeling from the harm his sister did to herself, left the scene at the hospital in an effort to cope and for self preservation, and he came back to us stronger and ready to help Kim.

I realize now, as I contemplate this beautiful gift that Paul gave me, how important support from others really is especially during times like we have had with Kim.  Regardless of anyone’s situation, and regardless of what type of illness, whether physical or mental, support from others can help uplift us and help us carry on despite our greatest challenges.  I know.  My son taught me.