The unfinished scarf

There’s a bag in my home office containing knitting needles and a ball of wool attached to a big chunky unfinished grey scarf.

Catherine’s handiwork. She hadn’t been a knitter but on one of her visits home I reintroduced her to the pleasing and relaxing activity of knitting. She had gone away with the wool and needles and decided to knit a scarf for her uncle.

She never got around to finishing it. Maybe she couldn’t remember how to cast off; I am fuzzy about the details. But whatever the reason, the scarf was never completed.

After Catherine’s death, 7 years ago today, the bag came home with me along with her other belongings that didn’t go immediately to the charity shops.

What do I do with this scarf is something I have pondered. I could finish it for her, but the person she was knitting it for has since died also. So even if I would finish it, it will still probably remain in the bag. As she was experimenting with stitches, the scarf isn’t exactly something to give away. I am sure she would have been happy to give it to a homeless person, who she had a special heart for, but I doubt whether even someone penniless and living on the street would want it. I suppose I could unravel the experimental part and reknit it, and then give it away. Perhaps that’s the best option. But that would mean unravelling some of her handiwork, and I am not sure about doing that.

And so, for now at least, the scarf remains unfinished.

I wonder when I die what “scarves” I will leave unfinished? I guess no matter our age when we pass on, there will always be unfinished business. Things we haven’t managed to take care of and goals we failed to reach. Words left unspoken and a few messes we didn’t clear up. A dream holiday that never happened or a book we never wrote. Perhaps a rare person here or there manages to achieve all they hoped for, but I can’t imagine it’s the majority.

Catherine’s unfinished scarf and my quandary about what to do with it symbolises so much more than incomplete knitting. It’s the grief journey in a nutshell; the sadness of seeing a life cut short, with its dreams unfulfilled; it’s the muddle about what comes next for those of us who live on.

A picture I took yesterday, arriving at the cemetery where Catherine is laid to rest. My first lone drive since (finally!) passing my driving test. Learning to drive is something else that Catherine started but didn’t complete. I have thought of her often as I drove. I think she would have been excited and pleased when I passed, as she was when I got my teaching qualifications.

Driving on is part of the grief journey too. Our lives do not stand still, although life doesn’t seem as it should be. So much remains incomplete and incomprehensible.

I think that honouring someone’s memory doesn’t necessarily mean completing what they started, for their life was their own, but it does mean finding ways to continue our own life. We remember with love as we keep living.

Catherine’s scarf has a life of its own now, on this page. Thank you for remembering her with me, even if that’s not what you were expecting when you started reading. May each of our loved ones rest in peace.


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