A very special blanket

This is a story about a blanket, inspired by the selfless act of Joe Hardwick’s family giving a lovely blanket to Prairie Valley Lodge.

A blanket is usually the first item of the physical world with which a child comes in contact. It is also often the last when leaving.

When someone you love is dying, the last thing you want others telling you is “the best you can do now, is make them comfortable.” It implies there is no hope – this person is really leaving you forever.

Coming to grips with losing someone close is one of the most difficult things we face. Letting go is the only peaceful solution but is so difficult when all our lives we fight to overcome the multitude of trials that life throws at us. This one seems insurmountable. It’s the Everest of emotions dealing with the impending death of a loved one. And everyone dies in a different way. But one thing that seems consistent is that it’s a roller coaster ride of emotions with a few false hopes thrown in.  

At a recent dinner party of writers, I told the guests about a story I was working on for my clients; Prairie Valley Lodge. One of the lodge residents, Joe Hardwick, originally from High River, died the previous year at the age of 101. In appreciation to the owners and staff of the lodge, Joe's daughters made them a beautiful quilt, which is now the special palliative care blanket at Prairie Valley Lodge.

I asked the dinner guests if they had any stories about special blankets. Barry told us about “the Blanket Song”, written by Canadian singer, Karla Anderson. The singer’s best friends’ daughter had died - she was 21 years old.

Karla talks about the experience on a YouTube video: “There was nothing I could do, you have to let people go into their grief.” Such beautiful lyrics “What can I do but bring a blanket to you…. to wrap around your shoulders… or put upon your knees…. try to keep the cold away…. keep your heart from turning blue… what else can I do… but bring a blanket for you.”  

Barry sought out words to comfort him when his own mother was dying which is when he came across the “Blanket Song”. Time smooths the sharp edges of the experience and he remembers his mother with softness and love.

I too have a blanket story. I found a special blanket for my father at a Trout Creek garage sale. It was a Black Watch tartan and I knew that Dad being Scottish would appreciate it. It was 100% wool and lovely and warm. Only a few months after that gift of the blanket, my father was dying. Sometimes he would reel in and out of a semi conscious state - and his first question when he came back was always - where’s my blanket? Somehow it became a great comfort to him.

The best thing for your dying loved one is to just sit with them, hold their hand and listen if they feel like talking. In the end it turns out that truly the best advice is “make them comfortable.” It helps to have a special blanket.

As the Hardwick family wrote in Joe’s obituary “Joe passed away peacefully”. And now the lovely blanket given by his family, will help others feel comfortable as they leave this world.