Have you ever held a finely woven piece of silk in your hands?
It is soft, fluid, with a natural luster that reflects the light in color-shifting ways. Delicate, and strong. One of the most precious fabrics in the world.
Before my mother-in-law passed away last week, she had asked me if I would write her obituary. It was a task I eagerly took on, feeling such a privilege and a gift to do this for her.
I asked her family to confirm dates and share memories. We received a few early notes from neighbors and friends recalling what she had meant in their lives. Very quickly I realized that even after knowing this woman for over 25 years, I only had hold of one or two of the threads of her life.
Her life—more accurately, the breadth and depth of her impact–unfolded before me like a beautiful piece of intricately woven silk.
I was reminded of a trip a few years ago through the south Indian city of Kanchipuram, renowned for its silk weaving and fine sarees. Master craftsmen used real gold and silver threads to weave intricate patterns in the border of fabric destined for a wedding saree. Each bolt of silk so vibrantly colored, and when held at the proper angle in the light revealed a hidden pattern of swirls or shapes not evident with a casual glance. Truly some of the most exquisite fabric I had ever seen.
Funny that this image of India and fine silk was first to come to mind when I began to write about this humble woman and her outsize impact on her world. My mother in law had lived in India for a year back in the 1960’s. I kind of knew that fact, but now the threads of that story developed into a more intricate tapestry.
Growing up in a farming family in the wheat lands of Washington state, and now leaving her home in the Midwest to move around the world with her husband, to both work in India; she in nutrition, he in agriculture. Towing along two young teenage boys, my husband, and his older brother, who both attended boarding school in Delhi. The suitcase of “American” food she brought along and rationed out to augment the local diet for her boys: Carnation Instant Breakfast, cans of Vienna sausage and tuna, and jars of peanut butter. No longer wondering why these are my husband’s favorite comfort foods!
We are each intricate pieces of exquisitely woven silk.
Yet, we probably only have a grasp on a few of those strands of thread, even for the people who matter most in our life.
I want to up my “thread count”. I know my life will feel so much richer if I can appreciate the whole tapestry of others in real time, rather than in retrospect.
Renewing my intention to connect with far-flung friends and colleagues and grasp a few more beautiful threads from their life.
Do the tapestries in your life resemble a thread-bare towel
more than a sumptuous silk or cashmere scarf?
How will you up your thread count?
Photo: JMaliszewski, 2017. Spools of silk thread near Kanchipuram, India.