LAWRENCE, MA – After her husband, Daniel, lost his long and courageous battle with cancer in 2015, Pat Brodie found solace by attending a bereavement group for surviving spouses offered by Merrimack Valley Hospice. To “keep my hands busy,” the Merrimac, Mass., resident. later joined the knitting group led by bereavement counselors Nancy Thornton and Lois Marra.
“I needed something to pull me out of the fog 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 became one of the most prolific knitters in the bunch. Members work on their own projects or make prayer shawls and other items to donate to High Pointe House, Merrimack Valley Hospice’s hospice and hospice care residence located in Haverhill, MA.
Marra, who recently retired from the Home Health Foundation (of which Merrimack Valley Hospice is a member agency) after a 26-year career, said all levels of knitters are welcome 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 don’t feel up to socializing,” said Marra, who lives in North Reading, Mass. “We sit, talk and laugh a bit while donating to High Pointe House because there is so much need there. We are lucky to have talented knitters who are also so generous with their time.
Thornton, a longtime bereavement counselor at Merrimack Valley Hospice who also worked for the HL Farmer and Sons aftercare program in Haverhill, said she was “moved to give back to the hospice” following the death of her mother in 1989. The social knitting group, she said, was a natural extension of those efforts.
“We’re a very welcoming group,” the East Kingston resident said, “and we have fun together.”
Susan Bailey, chaplain at High Pointe House and bereavement counselor at Merrimack Valley Hospice, said the knitting group and its donations are “an all-around blessing.” She noted that patients at High Pointe House deeply appreciate receiving prayer shawls sewn with spiritual intent, while grieving family members find meaning in taking them home and “wrapping themselves up while remembering that sacred moment when their loved one was dying.” Additionally, knitters have benefited from maintaining a sense of community and purpose throughout the pandemic.
“Just the fact that someone sat down for hours doing something kindly for others they don’t know is amazing,” Bailey said. “It’s an incredible act of love that reminds us of what really matters.”
New members are invited to join the knitting social group which meets every Wednesday from 1-3 p.m. at the Plaistow Public Library, 85 Main Street in Plaistow. Yarn donations can be delivered to the group during this time or dropped off at Chrissy Drummond at High Pointe House, 360 North Ave. in Haverhill, MA.
About Merrimack Valley Hospice
Merrimack Valley Hospice is a nonprofit agency that provides comfort care and support services to end-of-life patients, as well as free bereavement support groups and other resources. In collaboration with Home Health VNA, the agencies provide a full continuum of home health care and palliative care in more than 110 communities in northeastern Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire and southern Maine as York Hospital Hospice. For more information, visit MerrimackValleyHospice.org.