Lawrence, Mass. – After her husband, Daniel, lost his long and courageous battle with cancer in 2015, Pat Brodie found comfort in attending a bereavement group for surviving spouses offered by Merrimack Valley Hospice. To “keep my hands busy,” the Merrimac, Mass. resident then joined the knitting group run by bereavement counselors Nancy Thornton and Lois Marra.
“I needed something to get myself out of the haze of grief,” said Brodie, who was married to her high school sweetheart for 41 years. “All this time later, I’m still here.”
More than that, Brodie has become one of the most prolific knitters of the group. Members work on their own projects or handcraft prayer shawls and other items for donation to High Pointe House, the hospice and palliative care residence of Merrimack Valley Hospice located in Haverhill, Mass.
Marra, who recently retired from Home Health Foundation (of which Merrimack Valley Hospice is a member agency) following a 26-year career, said all levels of knitters are invited to join the group. Donations of washable yarn of any color are also welcome, preferably from non-smoking homes.
“This group is a safe space for people looking to get involved. And you can always hide behind your knitting if you’re not feeling up to socializing,” said Marra, who lives in North Reading, Mass. “We sit, talk and have a few laughs while donating to High Pointe House because there is such need there. We’re fortunate to have talented knitters who are also so generous with their time.”
Thornton, a longtime bereavement counselor with Merrimack Valley Hospice who also worked for the H.L. Farmer and Sons Aftercare Program in Haverhill, said she was “ moved to give back to hospice” after her mother’s death in 1989. The social knitting group, she said, was a natural extension of those efforts.
“We are a very welcoming group,” said the East Kingston, N.H. resident, “and we have fun together.”
Susan Bailey, a chaplain at High Pointe House and bereavement counselor with Merrimack Valley Hospice, said the knitting group and its donations are “a blessing all around.” She noted that patients at High Pointe House deeply appreciate receiving prayer shawls stitched with spiritual intention, while their grieving family members find meaning in taking them home and “wrapping themselves up while keeping the memory of this holy time when their loved one was dying.” In addition, the knitters have benefitted from maintaining a sense of community and purpose throughout the pandemic.
“Just the fact that someone sat for hours to make something with kindness for others they don’t know is amazing,” Bailey said. “It’s an incredible act of love that reminds us what really matters.”
New members are invited to join the social knitting group which meets every Wednesday, 1 to 3 p.m., at the Plaistow Public Library, 85 Main St. in Plaistow, N.H. Yarn donations may be delivered to the group during that time, or dropped off to Chrissy Drummond at High Pointe House, 360 North Ave. in Haverhill, Mass.
About Merrimack Valley Hospice
Merrimack Valley Hospice is a not-for-profit agency providing comfort care and supportive services to patients nearing the end of life, as well as free bereavement support groups and other resources. Together with Home Health VNA, the agencies provide a full continuum of home health and hospice care in more than 110 communities throughout northeastern Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire and southern Maine as York Hospital Hospice. For more information, visit MerrimackValleyHospice.org.