Ageing has her positive vibes. You have more stories to tell, experiences to share. A great portion of my life was given to work and serve people from different walks of life, both in the church and in the community as I worked in a local church. Frequently, I crossed paths with a handful of those that are marginalised, the unnoticed, the elderly and sick, the hospitalised, the homeless and the list goes on.
As I got into sewing and redeemed my sewing skills in my latter years, one of my favourite remains sewing blankets for new-borns, children and adults. One day, I received a phone call from a friend, and asked if I could visit his friend who was hospitalised, and seemingly time is running out for me as he was stricken with cancer that was spreading fast to his hips, pelvics and bones.
I met Alfred, a father of three in his late thirties. Life has been rough on him. A relapsed of cancer after four years had put him back into the hospital, and the cancerous cells had spread to the rib cage and stomach. No longer could the doctor administered any treatment, except to reduce his pain. Alfred is a courageous man, and a loving father. Since the first plagued of cancer four years ago, with a “walked-out” wife, he has no choice but to leave his kids to one of the children’s home. Since then, the hospital bed and his van became his home.
There was little I could help Alfred except to be a friend to him, in prayers, in words and in small deeds. He is a new friend to me, but a valuable one. I witnessed his struggle, his pain, his reluctance, his contentment, his gladness – a tension to hold, and hold it fittingly. In one of my visit, I decided to sew him a blanket when I see how he cuddled himself into the cluttered bed named “home.” This led me on to sew for his daughters, and begin a sobering reflection journey for me.
In Singapore, the majority of us has a roof under our heads, a shelter we called HOME. Yet, there are still some who are homeless, for legitimate reasons, for personal reasons, out of a personal choice or probably a helpless one. As I was a foster child since I was four months old, moving around from home to home right up to my adult days became a part of my life. Not something I preferred, yet became accustomed to it. There were few things that were important to me when I moved from location to location as a child – except my handkerchief and my blanket. Somehow, the blanket was “left behind” during one of my move, and my handkerchief remained the only treasure I kept close to me, refusing to wash for many many many months to come.
A blanket means HOME. It meant security and comfort besides providing the physical needs. That is also the motivation behind me to continue to sew patchwork blankets (although blankets are tough to sew due to the stretchy minky fabrics) whether they are new borns, toddlers or adults. Recently, I began to sew for the “homeless” (may not be physical lacking a shelter) – a few that I know personally, or befriended with. I want to believe that I will continue to do so for many days to come. For the Chinese and her tradition, a patchwork blanket 百家被 means protection, blessings, peace and health for the user, usually sewn by an elderly in the family.
In those days when my work has to do with relating with various people from diverse background, there were many precious memories where “blankets” were part of my stories. With the outbreak of SARS in Singapore in year 2003, I remembered leading a group of elderly women in the Pek Kio Community to contribute our part in sewing the “National Fabric for Singapore” as a statement of togetherness and care. Giving out blankets and towels remain the basic and useful essentials when I reached out to the homeless, the lonely, the sick or the elderly in the community. So, the next time when you come across a homeless person, you may want to consider giving him/her a blanket or a towel.
Blankets speak. They have a voice.