I can’t let today pass without mentioning my friend Amy who lost her battle with cancer four years ago on Wednesday. Today would have been her 38th birthday. I miss her dearly and think of her often.
She was the staple of our weekly knitting group, but I’m proud to say that we have continued to meet the last four years. We’re going on nearly 9 years now.
I wrote the following essay a few months after she died. It was part of the First Person Arts Museum. The project demonstrated how personal objects can carry memories and stories for the people who own them, and cherished objects can help us remember the loved ones we have lost.
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A single sock. It’s not a rare thing, a sock without a partner. But this sock’s partner in crime wasn’t lost in the black hole combination of washer and dryer; it was never created.
On June 18, 2010, my friend Amy lost her battle with lung cancer at the age of 33—only three days from her 34th birthday and 15 months after her original diagnosis. Fortunately, due to successful early chemo treatments, she was able to return to some sense of normalcy for several months. She went back to work as a nanny, moved back into her Center City apartment, and rejoined our weekly knitting group.
When I first moved to Philly in 2006, Amy was just a friend of a friend who I was told to look up once I got here. “You should call her,” our friend Scott said. “You two would totally get along.”
I did. And we did.
Amy invited me to come to her knitting group although I didn’t even know how to knit. “I’ll teach you,” she said. “Or, you can just come and eat and drink and socialize.”
After the first week of eating and drinking a little too much, I thought it would be best if I had something else to keep my hands occupied. Amy took me shopping and helped me pick out my first knitting needles and the yarn for my first scarf. She taught me to knit and purl and follow a pattern. I made scarves, hats and blankets, and she walked me through my first pair of socks—red socks for my husband, the RedSox fan.
Amy was the heart of our knitting circle. She was the uber knitter—she even lived above Loop, the yarn store on South Street. She knit sample products for them to display in their front windows. She listened to knitting and fiber podcasts and even had a gig knitting sweaters for an artist who had sold a line of sweaters to Anthropologie. We joked that she was the underpaid sweatshop worker as she slaved away to complete two sweaters a week.
Although Amy disliked social networking sites such as Facebook because she didn’t want everyone knowing what she was doing all the time, she was one of the first members of Ravelry, a social site for knitters. Amy tracked all her knitting projects on Ravelry, found patterns, made friends with far away kindred spirits and posted on discussion boards.
When Amy was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer, it of course, came as a shock to us all. But Amy kept her quirky, sarcastic sense of humor and demonstrated so many inspirational qualities until her final moments. In her last year Amy’s mantra was “Life is short. Learn new things.” She created a “hit list” of things she wanted to do, of things to learn, new skills to obtain. She took an embroidery class, a sewing class, a quilting class. She started a blog and finished some of the books she’s always wanted to read, but had always put off until later.
I feel fortunate that I got to see Amy in the hospital the day before she died. She even mentioned a knitting project she was working on, but said she couldn’t talk about it because it was a secret. After her death, a little digging on Ravelry revealed it was a baby blanket she was knitting for a friend. On Ravelry I also found a finished baby blanket Amy labeled ICCKMA Blanket. I clicked on the project and in the Notes section she had written, “in case cancer kicks my ass blanket–so my yet to be born nieces and nephews will have something from me :)”
In the week after her death, Amy’s family went through the things at her apartment. Overwhelmed by all of the yarn, knitting books, other knitting supplies and unfinished knitting projects, they gave most of it to the knitting group. We were encouraged to take something to remember her by, to use her yarn to knit hats for preemies or blankets for cancer patients, to knit something for ourselves that we would enjoy. In the pile of unfinished projects I found this bright blue sock. I later found it on Ravelry titled “My Tumor Shrunk Socks. Yay!” She started it in June of 2009 when the chemo was working well and the tumor in her lung got smaller. My Tumor Shrunk Socks. Their intricate knit looks almost like lace. They are well above my skill level, but I took them home anyway. They are Amy’s challenge to finish a pair of socks without her. To always be learning new things.