I had no other recourse but to channel that grief into something good. So, I made a holiday garland for my stairs.
The garland is made out of strips of fabric tied to twine. It took about three evenings of binge watching Psych reruns and tying knots to finish about 20 feet of garland. Beyond the fact that I really like how it turned out, the exercise of making this garland was meditative and soul-soothing. Here's why.
I made the garland out of my father's old clothes. My dad suddenly passed away last October of a heart attack. His absence looms large in our everyday lives, and my family still aches with the pain of losing him. But as I sat on the couch, cutting up the blue and white-striped denim shorts that my dad used to wear with American flag suspenders, I thought about how much I've changed in the past year. I thought about how my commitment to doing and writing about good has made me less fearful, and about how my outlook has transformed for the better as a result.
As I selected which of his many Christmas ties to cut into strips, I thought about what makes the world a scary place, and what helps to take some of that fear away. The answer is people - people like my dad who unequivocally loved me; people like my friends in Harrisonburg who are willing to give their time to be helpers of all stripes; and people like the parents and educators I know who are committed to raising ethical and caring children.
As I carefully cut his old reindeer flannel sheets, I thought about how our lives are the culmination of many different experiences, and how important it is to make those experiences positive for ourselves and others. When I was a child, my dad used to drive me crazy with math word problems that he told me to solve with my "mind's eye." But as I cut up those sheets, I smiled as my mind's eye brought forth images of him clear as day, sitting on those sheets and joking around in the morning before I got ready for school.
As I cut up a t-shirt that read "World's Best Dad," I thought about how it's not shameful to wear your heart on your sleeve or as a slogan emblazoned across your chest. I used to keep my faith to myself. I used to bow out of political arguments (with everyone except my dad, that is... sorry mom). I used to choke back my tears if the situation wasn't "appropriate" for crying. I don't do that any more. I am my father's daughter. He was more proud of being my dad than anything in the world, and I could always count on him to have my back. Feeling secure and unconditionally supported is a tremendous gift.
This week the world went crazy, and I made a garland in response. With each knot, I reflected. With each fabric strip, I felt resolved. With each inch, I felt supported. And when I hung the garland on the stairs, I felt loved. I know that we live in scary times that will continue to get scarier if we retreat into hatred and fear. But after my three evenings of meditative DIY, I know that I am proud to wear my heart on my sleeve. I will keep fighting the good fight. I will keep approaching each day with reflection, resolve, support, and love for all of humanity... for every single broken one of us.