Robert in healthier days, working in Peru (2016)
I have been putting this off. Not that I needed to do it in a hurry. Today I spent some time sorting through my husband’s jeans and shirts. He had a stash of jeans in large sizes – he used to be a big guy. Cancer diminished his body, but not his spirit. He had given away most every piece of clothing to a local shelter where he volunteered. The only clothing left in his closet were two pair of jeans, one pair dress pants, a sport coat and 3 shirts. Then I found the stack of jeans. I’m sure he planned to take the bag to the same shelter. I will do so this week, along with some sweatshirts and PJs that I found.
Robert was a bicyclist and loved riding the trails on his mountain bike up in Memphis and in Jackson. But here in New Orleans the terrain is flat. He loved riding these streets as well. Most days he would ride ten miles. He did that until earlier this year, until his energy was zapped by chemo. All the memories fill my heart as I sort through his old biking clothes – he was serious – he had all the gear of a racer. The elastic in his biking shorts has dry rot now. Ditching those. One thing I know, is that my husband’s life is so much more than all these things.
Biking along the Natchez Trace
As I sort and pack up his clothing, my very heart hurts with pain. Until I pull out his favorite biking shirt. Neon reflective green, with black stripes. I can see him now, soaring over the hills and through the sand, never stopping, breathing deep, sweat dripping, blowing hot breath as he pedals up a hill. He is strong. He is muscular. He is healed.
As I will be one of these days. But until then, my heart still hurts.
Mardi Gras and “Coat of Many Colors” that we made; Riding the streets of New Orleans.
Posted in Biking, cancer, Chemo, Death, grief, healing, Heart, Uncategorized
Tagged Biking, cancer, Death, Death of Spouse, health, New Orleans
Have you ever experienced someone crossing your path and you knew at once it was divine intervention? A few weeks ago, a woman was walking past our shop on Magazine Street and she made a sudden decision to go inside and look around. That woman was Claire Koch. She saw the beautiful fabrics, and she told me the touching story of her daughter’s experience with ‘heart pillows’. Within that conversation we developed an idea, and within minutes we had a plan. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, February 20-22, we will have a “Heart-a-Thon” and sew as many heart pillows as we can. More details below. But first, Claire’s story – so appropriate for this Valentine’s Day: “My daughter was born 6 weeks early during a hurricane evacuation. But that was not the shocking news for me. It came when the doctors told me something was very wrong with her heart and she would need surgery. My baby had her heart “fixed” at four months of age. It was not lost on me that I lived in a country where the best health care in the world was provided to my precious baby. I made a deal with my God: if he made sure my baby recovered I promised to one day help other children. That was the beginning of my 16-year journey to this point. Once my daughter began to grow up and become more independent, I started to look for organizations I could join to help other heart children. I had a difficult job finding the right organization that I felt used the funds completely for the kids, and one where I could be a volunteer for as well. Until I read about HeartGift in the newspaper. HeartGift in a non-profit organization dedicated to providing lifesaving heart surgery to children from developing countries where access to specialized medical care is either scarce or nonexistent. Participating pediatric physicians donate 100% of their time and talents and HeartGift assumes all other financial obligations for the child and mother. The only thing the families are responsible for is seeing their children grow and flourish. HeartGift has five chapters in Texas and one here. We could not achieve our success without our partnership with Children’s Hospital here in New Orleans. I have been with HeartGift since 2011 and have seen 20 children through the surgery and recovery process. I have been at the airport welcoming a weak and frail child, only to watch that same child return to the airport 5 weeks later to run past angered TSA agents. But it is the courage of the mothers that gets to me each and every time. These mothers leave their villages and countries for the first time and make long trips to New Orleans to seek help from complete strangers in a foreign land. They hand over their child to us. It is amazing to see the hope and trust in their eyes. While I have spent many hours in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) I have noticed every year we see a few heart shaped pillows arrive for the patients. In the past, a local Boy Scout troop made twenty or so pillows for the kids each year.These pillows do not just brighten up the room but proved to be more effective to use than a regular pillow to press against a child’s chest post-surgery when a child starts to cough. Coughing is normal post surgery, but can be extremely painful. The nurses use a pillow to press into the child’s rib cage to help cushion the child’s ribs as they cough. I happened to meet Emma when I was walking down Magazine Street. I am so excited she has offered to do a “Heart-a-Thon” to produce needed pillows for all the children in the Heart Center of Children’s Hospital. Currently, there are 22 beds in the ICU. Many of them are filled with little babies who do not need the pillows, but the kids who are two and up, as well as teens, could sure use some of your loving handiwork! The pillows will be a valued dearly by the children recovering from heart surgery, their families and the staff of the Heart Center at Children’s Hospital.” Come join our “Heart-a-Thon! Uptown Needle & CraftWorks will donate fabrics. Clair has already purchased fiberfil. Now we need you – to cut out hearts, sew, stuff, and hand stitch – for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour of your time on either of the days above. We will have sewing machines set up, fabrics and scissors at the ready. Experienced sewists needed to come and assist! You will be glad you did. February 20-22, Friday and Saturday 10-5pm, Sunday noon-5pm. Below are a few pictures of some of the kids HeartGift hosted last year. You may get in touch with Claire Koch at Claire@ClaireKoch.net. Learn more at HeartGift.org.
Posted in charity, childhood, creativity, Heart, New Orleans, sewing, volunteer
Tagged Children's Hospital, Claire Koch, heart, Heart Center, HeartGift, pillows, sewing, Uptown CraftWorks