Every Stitch a Prayer

Last week, I  packed my chemo bag for the last time.  I called it my carry-on.  My infusion takes the same amount of time as a transatlantic flight.  At the end of those long days, there was no crackling announcement by a flight attendant to stow laptops and raise tray tables– no welcome to Paris or London or Rome– but there was a sense with each round that I was one step closer to that being possible for us again.

When I packed my “carry-on bag” every 21 days, I did not fly alone. The quilt that kept me warm was made by a dear friend.  Ben, my favorite traveling (through life) companion, was next to me every minute of every hour of every session.  We talked. He read or worked.  Even though my carry-on included a charged Kindle, AirPods, and a good playlist/podcast mix, I  usually used the time to be quiet and reflect.  The time passed– just like it does on a plane.   

The nurses moved in and out like angels.  My doctor and nurse practitioner encouraged me and kept me informed.  The nurse navigator kept me on track.  We were surrounded by people no one could see: the pop-up compassionate community that surrounds Ben and me. 

When I was first diagnosed, a friend said, “You have given a lot; now you are going to learn to receive.”   

In the days, weeks, and months since then, her words have stayed with me.  Now that I am a student of receiving, I have learned more about its reciprocal process: the art of giving. 

I’ve learned that gifts are not weighted.  A generous impulse is just right, and kindness is never wasted.  People act and stone soup grace transforms every action into bounty.  I’ve learned that when we show up, we are not the only ones showing up. We all show up in different ways: a quick game of cards, a meal, a book, a movie recommendation, a conversation, ice cream, flowers, granola, colored pencils, or a link to an article or a song from Spotify.   People show up through their cards, texts, emails, Facebook messages, and prayers across three faith traditions. They show up with tangible gifts of beauty and comfort.  People show up, figuratively and literally, to walk with me.  

The gift is always just right, strengthening a safety net wrought of glorious and shimmering threads of grace.  The fibers are made strong with every generous move, tiny or big. 

 When I went for my first chemo infusion, I heard someone ringing a bell.  “That will be you before you know it,” said the nurse.  She then explained that the bell was rung at the end of the final round of chemo.  The nurse was right.  Suddenly I was done, and it was my turn.  The nurses applauded as I rang the bell; I rang it loud.  I rang it for me. I rang it for Ben. I rang it with gratitude for the doctors and nurses.  I rang it for all the love and support from our family and friends that got us to this point in treatment.  I rang it for the women that entered the trial that became a cure in 2005. This was the first part of the treatment. There are more phases.  But I think this was the worst part. 

I am astonished  when people  say, “I wish I could do more.”  Because now I know the secret. Every stitch and stir, every meal, and every encouraging word is a prayer.  Even the tiniest act of kindness is a pretty big deal. 

About Annie Campbell

Annie Campbell is a National Board Certified teacher and loves her work. After a forty year career in the classroom, she continues to support teachers. Annie enjoys cooking for family and friends; she likes to lose herself in a good book; she loves discovering new ideas, restaurants, perfect picnic places, and movies with her husband, Ben.
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7 Responses to Every Stitch a Prayer

  1. Michele Surat says:

    Wow, Annie! Congratulations! You rang the bell! When I was in Auvillar, the Mariner’s Chapel beside the artists’ colony had a bell rope hanging down so that the pelerins ( pilgrims) on the chemin ( ancient pilgrimage route/camino) could announce their arrival. I walked daily past that rope, wrote and painted on a chair inside the chapel, and left Auvillar without ringing the bell. Why? Maybe because I hadn’t really done the pilgrimage route yet.

    Thanks for the inspiration found in these posts. I hold you in the Light and look forward to reading more. Michele Surat

  2. Cynde says:

    If you ever want a dash of Shakespeare, I could come and read something/

  3. Jane Baird Hyde says:

    You are a true inspiration, Annie, and God has blessed you in so many ways!

  4. Annie, I’m so glad to hear you’ve rung the bell and are that much closer to your next transatlantic flight. Much, much love! XoLibby

  5. Cindy says:

    Dear Annie
    For years you have moved in and out of so many lives like an angel. And YOUR effervescent kindness has been a gift for everyone you have met along your journey – so the shimmering threads of grace you feel in your safety net now are merely reflections of the grace and joy you have shared with others along the way. You are adored by many. And your fan club sends prayers of overwhelming gratitude with the ringing of the bell news, prayers of strength for the next steps along the way and prayers of thanks for your including us in your journey.

    You’re my hero!

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