“We could sell these, but that would take all the joy out of making them.” Mary Whitfield runs her fingers over the multiple infant caps in front of her. The caps are a labor of love for the members of the knitting club at Jackson Health Care Facility. They are taken to the University of South Alabama Women’s and Children’s Hospital and given to the smallest patients, many of whom are fighting for their lives. The club makes the hats in all sizes to be shared with preemies, cancer patients and anyone in need.
It is a club that began earlier this year when Thelma Pugh came to Jackson Health Care Facility. Pugh had decades of experience with crocheting and knitting and wanted a way to get to know her new neighbors better. Several residents who were also familiar with the handicrafts joined, eager to practice their skills once again. Some who had never held either knitting or crochet needles joined to learn something new. Young teen girls from the community joined because they wanted a good challenge.
Until recently, the club has met weekly, not only to create gifts for others, but to invest in each other’s lives. Laughter rings from a large meeting room at the end of a hall. The members examine completed projects, and offer each other tips and guidance both for knitting and for living. Each member is aware that their health is not what it once was. They are each all too familiar with medical terminology, treatment, and concerns; but for an hour or so on Wednesday afternoons, they laugh and they stitch. They wonder about the medical needs of the recipients of the caps that they are making. For a brief segment of time, these ladies practice a handicraft and learn more about the each other. They encourage one another.
On July 5, the meeting was extra special. Thelma Pugh was back for the first time since her stroke. Her students were glad to see her and eager to show their progress. When she expressed doubt about ever being able to crochet or knit again, the ladies in attendance became Pugh’s champions, encouraging her to keep picking up her needles and get started again. Ruby Wimberley empathized with Pugh’s recent health plight. “I had a stroke, too, Thelma. I had to start back slow.” At that moment, Wimberley presented Pugh with a latch hook kit, a yarn craft that does not require the same amount of dexterity as knitting or crocheting, but still involves yarn, counting, and a sense of accomplishment when finished. Wimberley showed Pugh her own latch hook project and Pugh smiled, “Are you sure that everything I need to do this is in this box?”, she asked. Wimberley nodded assuringly.
The ladies worked on their individual projects and shared stories of their families and snacks provided by those families. There was much laughter and a few tears. Mostly, there was encouragement for each other and the challenge to keep going, keep working on whatever the current project is. It seems that there are days that we can all accept that challenge and the encouragement to keep giving life our all.
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.