Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Stitch in Time at the Airlines - For Grandma Bea

Beatrice Mae Rowland May 19, 1918 - June 15, 2014
My grandmother passed away on Sunday, June 15.  I feel so blessed to be the age I am and only now have to say goodbye to her - however, it's never long enough.  I often called her the "Queen Mother" and frequently gave her my expectations in that of  becoming the centurion of the family.  I think 96 was close enough.

My brother and I had the privilege of speaking at her memorial in Seattle.  Renny gave an amazing eulogy, which I hope to soon incorporate into this blog -- but for now, and because none of my children were able to attend, I wanted to leave with them the talk I gave.  (Thankfully this post won't have my stuttering and stumbling that was included in the original ;-)  It is my hope, that by learning a bit of Grandma's life and character, as well as the influence she had on me, will rest itself in their own personalities, currently being chiseled into.

One Chain at a Time

Being the only grand-daughter of 7 grandchildren, was special for me.  Having the good fortune to  have been born on Beatrice's Birthday, gave a bit more depth to our relationship.   As soon as my mother phoned with the heartbreaking news of grandma's passing, I naturally had myself a good cry.  Somewhere in the middle of
A Part of My Crochet Frenzy
those tears I found myself searching among my crafts for crochet hooks, yarn and several patterns.  I began to crochet --  almost non-stop.  I'd awake early in the morning and crochet to midnight, stopping only to throw a necessary load of laundry in the wash or warm up a microwave meal for our 9 year old.  Everyone else in the household was fending for themselves at that point.  After about five straight days of this, and with my hand aching and almost too stiff to move, I finally braced myself with the question; "Why are you doing this?"  It may be difficult to comprehend, but for me, a ball of yarn and crochet hook, made me feel about as
close to grandma as I could possibly get...

During the summer months when I was 7 years old, Grandma looked after me.  I'd watch her day after day, sitting in her chair, immersed in her soap operas and crocheting for hours.  I recall one particular day seeing  her rip out several hours of crochet work in her lap.  "Grandma" I asked curiously, "Why are you taking all your stitches out?"

Grandma remarked that she had made a mistake and didn't find it until just then.  If she didn't fix it now, it would end up all wrong in the end.  When I remarked that it looked perfect to me, and no one could tell, she just replied, "Well, it's not right, and I know it."

Somehow in those summer weeks I managed to persuade grandma to teach me to crochet.  She hated to be interrupted from her 'programs' and her work, but after a pleading look and about the twentieth time begging, she finally let out a long sigh, and said, "Well...alright."

The chain stitch is the foundation of any crochet pattern.  When complete, it looks just as it's name, a 'chain'.  I chained and chained all day long until my work could most likely wrap completely around her trailer home.  I was so excited and was ready for the next stitch.  Once again, a reluctant grandma, let out her long sigh and began to teach me the connecting stitches.  As I grew older, I learned to follow patterns and teach myself new stitches.

The Love of Perfection

As a young mother, and pregnant with my first son, I attempted to crochet a baby blanket.  I got about half way through when I became just too pregnant and uncomfortable to do anything.  I asked Grandma if she wouldn't mind finishing it for me.  Rarely do any two people crochet alike, and due to this, was reluctant to take it on, but agreed she would.  A few weeks later Grandma brought it to me and exclaimed, "Chimene,
Luke's Baby Blanket by Beatrice and Me
look!"  I looked and saw her holding up the finished blanket and thanked her graciously for it.  "No, Chimene, look!" she said again, her face held a glint of pride and I searched among the neatly made stitches as if to 'Find Waldo' among the tightly crafted rows.  As I stared up searchingly at her, she announced, "You can not tell where you stopped, and where I started.  We crochet identically.  I have never known anyone who crocheted exactly like me!" 

Hmmm.  I wondered aloud and told grandma that when I crocheted I did not do it tight, and I did not do it loose -- but rather, I said, I do it 'Just Right'.  Grandma nodded vigorously in agreement and added, "That's right.  That's the way you do it, 'Just Right'.  That's what makes it perfect.

Toby, Chimene and Grandma - Seattle 2012
I tell this story, because grandma did not really teach me a craft.  She did more than that.  Grandma taught me a 'trait'.  What she really passed down to me was the importance of perfection.  So much of who I am today began in those first few chain stitches.  It is incredibly difficult for me to make a bed, or set a table without at least a touch of perfection in it.  In those first chains I learned a great lesson in life.  We can make mistakes and hide them or we can unravel them and do it right.  My life and who I am today has benefited greatly because of the time grandma took to put down her work and teach me who she was with a ball of yarn and a steel crochet hook.


With only 2 days to go before leaving for Seattle, I found myself missing my family to an unbearable point before I was even gone.  I had to force myself to pack and as each item was folded neatly into my small
suitcase, my heart sunk with unexplained sorrow.  The loss of grandma and her absence in my life was surrendering my soul towards a longing of desperation to see or call her on the phone just once more.

The night before my flight, I lay in bed and let my thoughts speak aloud, "What if I'll never see Grandma again?"  This unfiltered remark caused my husband to sit straight up in bed and turn to me asking, quite alarmed, "Honey, are you questioning your faith?"

"There's no such thing as accidental perfection."
I believe I was just puzzled -- like a 5000 piece jigsaw, trying to find the last piece that had fallen in the carpet--a deep shaggy carpet--and I began to panic.  I repeated the question to him and this time he could sense my fear.

In his calm and logical voice, he began to tell me of his own way of dealing with doubt. "Whenever there is any kind of doubt about this world and why we are here, I just look at anything in nature.  Look at a lake, look at a tree, look at the human body and all that it can do.  I remind myself, that there is no such thing as accidental perfection.  Perfection doesn't happen by chance.  We are not here by chance." 

I felt a flood of peace. The answers are always in front of us  -- they have not fallen on the floor or in the carpet.   There is nothing missing.  It is all there in one perfect picture.   It is just right.  And it is perfect.  Love is always the builder of perfection.  That perfect love is reflected in every creation.

Life is Like an Airport

With a stronger will, I strolled to the airport gate in Atlanta with plenty of time to spare.  I was pleased that I managed to get a weeks worth of clothing in my light carry on.  When the gate attendants offered to check my bag at no charge, I took advantage of the extra freedom it would give, allowing me to bolt to my connecting flight when landing in Chicago.  I was also grateful Georgia was forecast with rain for the next several days -- as I was not entirely trusting of a 9 year olds memory to water my potted flowers and herbs.  Just as I was giving such thanks to mother nature's conveniences, She decided to churn out a bit of thunder and lighting to go with it, thereby delaying our boarding for 2 hours.

Arriving in Chicago I managed to obtain a  reissued ticket to Seattle -- boarding in just under 5 hours.  My phone battery needed desperate charging and I spied an outlet, sharing it with a a little girl and her PS Vita.  I have been in many airports around the world, and it has been my discovery that whether you are in Sydney or San Francisco, there are just two types of travelers.  1) Those who are going places and 2) Those who are going home.

Just moments after finding a comfortable seat near my precious outlet, a women, and her little girl came
Hartsfield-Jackson Airport
marching towards my charging phone, peering around desperately looking for an additional outlet of their own.   Their flight home had been cancelled and they were having the unfortunate experience of being separated from an ailing mother and aging aunt while trying to make the journey back to Orange County.  She needed to get in touch with her husband and let him know the sudden changes that had occurred.  I easily gave into their needs and offered to let them take my spot in the outlet line for a bit.  She was so thankful and we chatted for a good while.  I learned of her new grandson and she glowed with joy in just mentioning him.  Her little girl was excited to get home to her horses and I learned of her joy in riding.

Before too long, another couple came searching for an outlet, and just when I thought I was going to have to take one more step back in line to accommodate their needs, a young man, dressed in complete western attire pulled a rabbit out of his saddle bag.  In actuality it was a 'splitter' out of his backpack, and it was just the kind of magic everyone of us needed at that moment.

We all sat around the splitter holding 3 mobile phones and one electronic hand-held game system.  I joked with the cowboy, telling him he must make a lot of friends by carrying that splitter around -- and that under no circumstance could he leave any time soon.  He just smiled and said his flight to England was delayed by
8 hours, so he had plenty of time to spare (Ma'am).  Having lived in the U.K. we were immediately deep in discussion about the places he must visit, the things he must and mustn't do as well as which direction to look when crossing the road.  This bright, enthusiastic 18 year old from Wyoming was heading towards 6 months of farm training exchange around the best parts of England, Scotland and Ireland.   He was full of excitement, ready to adapt to foreign ways and he most assuredly had the bull by the horns.

In the hours of conversation between grandchildren, horses, farmland and the exchange rates, my gate had changed and I found myself rushing off--only to be delayed once more at the new gate.  Seated on my left was an elderly man, from Toronto.  He was flustered and frustrated.  He too had missed his connection in Chicago and had spent several hours in his Indian accent trying to get the right ticket reissued on the right flight.  He was off to visit his son in Alaska and was worried now about missing a second connection in Seattle due to our new delay.  Trying to change the subject to something a bit more positive, I inquired of his family.  He was a widower and I was happy to see his pulse slowing as he spoke of his beloved wife with such reverence.  He exposed his feelings of being lost without her for the past few years.  At that point I happened to overhear another elderly gentleman, seated to my right.  He too was visiting a child in Alaska, and was making the same connection in Seattle.  I took that moment to introduce the two and observing their hearty conversation made the time tick away quickly.  I was so thankful this little Indian man had found someone to help him -- and hopefully, not feel so lost.

Finally seated in the plane, I sat back to relax, and jolted with sudden pain in my legs.  The hours of delay and just sitting with very little movement, coupled with the awkward and tight position of the airplane seat, was hitting a nerve and causing me a great deal of strain and hurt.  The pain naturally only increased over the 4+ hour flight and in the  last moments became so excruciating,  I nearly cried out.  Walking never felt so good, and with each step to baggage claim I could feel the flow of blood bringing me back to life.  Do you know what was really amazing?  My little red bag somehow made it through all the changes and came rolling out, holding everything I needed for a comfortable stay in Seattle.

while waiting for my cousin Christopher to collect me, I stood and paced in the midnight air. I began to dwell on my experiences over the past several hours and came to the conclusion, that Life is Like an Airport.  There are two kinds of people in life 1) People going places and 2) People going home.  Sometimes we get disappointed, and delayed.  We don't always get to where we want to go as quickly as we'd like.  Sometimes we get lost.   Yet, along the way we meet others.  We share their joys and their sorrows.  We share our wisdom and help where we can.  We make friends that show us the way.  Sometimes life is also very painful.  It makes us want to cry out now and again.  But in the end, we end up where we're suppose to be---with everything we need for our journey.

I know Grandma Bea has made her way home.  I know she is surrounded with loved ones in heaven, as she was surrounded by loved ones on earth.  And I know that place is perfect.

It hurts so much to be without those we love.  It has been said, "The only way to take the sting out of death is to take the love out of life." (and how can that be possible, when Life is made from Love so perfect).  

Chimene  xx


  1. I enjoyed reading your talk; you are a very talented and eloquent writer. My son, Tanner, shared Elder Nelson's talk with me "the Doors of Death", and I used that same quote that you did at the end of yours.

    1. Thank you so much Loel. Elder Nelson's quote put everything in perspective. I completely forgot about adding a footnote to his credit. As soon as I have a moment to look up the Ensign issue I shall do that! So double thanks. Your father is such a memorable man. I know those memories will serve you well. :-)


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