In the little white casket sat a pair of blue booties, knit with love.
I was nineteen and in my second year of college. There was this certain, red headed boy that I’d been dating for a few months and I was busy working on my commercial pilots license. When we weren’t wandering our way through an Albertan blizzard, we spent a great amount of time trying to knit. Very few college students had managed to avoid the knitting fever – even the boys spent time “brocheting.” And so, when my roommate tossed me her old pair of knitting needles and a ball of yarn, I eagerly set to work.
Three failed attempts later, I’d finally completed my first project – a wobbly, lime green, garter stitched scarf.
Receiving mail in Three Hills takes a notoriously long time but the wait was worth it whenever a little care package with letters, stale cookies or presents finally arrived in your box. One such brown papered parcel arrived from Vancouver with tiny knitting needles, a super soft, snuggly ball of pale, blue wool and instructions on how to make a pair of baby booties.
I diligently set to work on my first “real” knitting project, taking the time to YouTube new stitches along the way. I figured that at the next baby shower, an expectant mom-to-be would end up with a little pair of Liz’s handiwork (assuming that the booties actually turned out in a shoe shaped form).
The boots completed, I proudly set them on my shelf and started knitting a cozy blanket. The little shoes remained virtually untouched for the next four years. They moved from Three Hills to Vancouver, from my parents’ home to our apartment and eventually came to rest beside my collection of Agatha Christie books. There they sat until one bright, May day when we learned that our identical twins were boys.
Twenty weeks into the pregnancy, the hospital was finally allowed to tell us the gender of our babies. Although we were keeping the names a surprise, we were excited to share whether “Team Blue” or “Team Pink” had won.
Arriving home from the gender revealing ultrasound, I spotted the blue booties gathering dust on the bookshelf. As I held them in the palm of my hand, I realized that these knit shoes were finally going to be worn – by one of my sons no less!
We used the booties as our proud announcement that we were having boys. Snapping a quick picture, I uploaded it to Facebook with an elated description, “I knit these baby booties in college, never dreaming that they’d be for one of my own sons! Guess I have to knit another pair!”
Not knowing that the boys were going to arrive two months early, I never had time to knit a second set.
After we lost Landon, the funeral home asked what we would like him to be buried in. We picked out of tiny pair of blue, preemie pyjamas with an airplane crested on it. He was then wrapped in a soft, swaddling cloth, patterned with tiny paper airplanes and little red, dotted hearts. As we were picking this out, I realized that I wanted him to have the booties. They sat in the casket by his feet; a gift of love. The shoes matched the rest of his outfit as if it had been planned. But this was no coincidence. Although I didn’t know it, these little knitted shoes had been tailor made for Landon from the start.
I sobbed as we dropped the items off at the funeral home. I was sharply struck by the fact that this was the first and only time that I would get to buy clothes for my son. There would never be another outfit. I would never get to choose which sweater he’d wear for his first picture day at school or see him in a tux at his wedding. I’d never be able to go about the seemingly mundane task of buying him a new swimsuit, a pair of socks, or a winter coat. There would never again be the opportunity to express my deep love for him through knitting a tiny toque, mittens or sweater.
I remember when we first moved into our apartment. I looked at those booties, sitting on a shelf, collecting dust and thought, “What am I going to do with those?” But unbeknownst to me, they had been made for a specific time, a specific purpose. For purely sentimental reasons, it means a lot to have been able to offer my firstborn something that I diligently laboured over. I feel honoured to have been able to knit my son his first pair of shoes.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (ESV)