- By Helen
- 4 Comments
Recently, I was asked to make a shroud for a woman who, because of an illness she has, is in the final stages of her life. Bespoke shrouds are not something I do frequently for the philosophy of Shroud Memento is to co-ordinate families to participate in the making of a shroud for another or, via a workshop, to make a shroud for yourself or someone close to you. During the consultation with the woman and two of her grown children, she sketched for me an idea of what it was she wanted.
She didn’t like the word shroud, and she didn’t want a flat decorated cloth. She handed over several pieces of material that held meaning and value for her. When I saw what she had drawn it meant that I would need to make a pattern that would connect the panels of cloth to create the idea of the gown she had sketched, similar to a Japanese kimono, and to represent the essence of life in the garment.
Entrusted to make such a gown, I was responsible for honouring the creative wishes of the client. In accepting the commission, I partook in a privileged role that required the engagement of my skills, focus and spiritual attention, for without them, I could not create the gown desired, nor understand how the pieces of cloth would harmoniously connect. Intuition is a way of connecting to the consciously unknown and helps when a decision needs to be made, such as the length or width of a panel, or working with the pattern within decorative cloth, or even where I was going to source the perfect colour and texture of lining. I rely on my intuition to guide me with these decisions and I believe that intuition is the connection of my spirit to another. The son of the client had made a neck-piece for his mother to wear with the gown before it was commission and I was gladdened to hear that the piece sat perfectly with the positioning of panels and colour of the cloth.
The bulk of the sewing was by machine, yet I left the tops of the lined panels to sew by hand. Hand sewing is meditative for me and with each stitch I said the words to myself, peace and love as a way to keep a spiritual focus and as a respectful prayer for the wearer of the gown; two things that I believe are important states to aspire to, or obtain at the end of life.
To create an opportunity for the children of the client to have some part in the gown without over-riding or altering her wishes, I suggested that I sew pockets onto the lining of the gown to hold small items or written messages to be slipped into the pockets which would then wrap around their mother. It also allows the children an opportunity to invite others to be a part of an end of life ceremony.
When the gown was complete and collected by the client’s daughter, I received a text message later that evening that read: Helen, Mum absolutely loves it. She put it on straight away and hasn’t taken it off! She put all her jewellery on then just slept peacefully all afternoon. We are thrilled. It is so beautiful and perfect. Thank you so much.
Throughout my working life I have never received positive feedback that moves or fulfils me the way such comments as this does; it filled me with peace and love.
Peace and love to you all.