Sewn in Sorrow, Bound with Joy
Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy (Psalm 126:5).
Holding fabric in hand, feeling it slip through fingers as foot pushed the pedal, the sewing machine did its magic. The quiet whir of its motor gentle, like the man whose clothing I stitched. As I sewed, I prayed–not so much for the one who once wore the button-downs, jeans, swimming trunks and T-shirts but for the little one who struggled in the NIC unit, for the little one who bore the name of a papaw he would never meet.
Our nephew Kaiden Ronald Cooper entered this world on April 30th at 3:45 PM. Born four weeks prematurely, he only weighed 4 lbs. / 5 oz, though he measured 17.25 inches in length. But he was born a fighter, the kisses of angels and Jesus fresh on his face, their echoes perhaps cheering him on.
Though there’s nothing theologically certain about babies being alive in heaven prior to their arrival on earth, I do find pleasure in envisioning such, and I believe without question that God knows each of us before we’re born. As the scripture says–
Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…”(Jer. 1:4, 5).
Conceived in love, Kaiden’s mama and daddy, as well as big sister Reagan, prepared their hearts and home for him. The hard part? Waiting for his arrival–though a baby shower the end of March would certainly help. Due to COVID-19, however, that never happened–family and friends from Ohio and North Carolina sending cards and gifts virtually and through the mail instead. Though each was sent with love, the absence of actual people was undoubtedly disappointing, making the wait even more difficult.
But there was the absence of one person in particular. Though present for the announcement of Kaiden’s coming, he was gone months prior to his birth, though we know Papaw’s even more alive in the glory of heaven.
Thus, the gift I desired most to give Kaiden–whose middle name is Papaw Denny’s too–was something created from the clothing worn by a man who loved children and lattes (with lots of whipped cream) and trips to Bath and Body Works. Of course, Papaw hoped to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Ps. 27:13) in the face of his eighth great-grandchild. Nothing could ever bring him more joy!
I asked my mother-in-law Faith for some of the fabric from Denny’s clothing, and she went above and beyond what I could’ve imagined–meticulously cutting thirty-five 8×8 squares from his dress shirts, jeans, and T-shirts, as well as the only pair of swimming trunks he’d wear. Even the colors, number of squares and their layout hold significance. A cross was created with the placement of the white squares, for example, and the number and size of the squares stand for “grace” (5), “completion” (7), and “new beginnings” (8-inch by 8-inch squares).
Because I wasn’t able to purchase the remaining fabric and batting at our local quilt shop, I ordered it online–a soft, navy blue flannel for the back, which was Dad Denny’s favorite color. Then I got to work–choosing a lighter blue thread for the top stitching and red for the underside. I finished the quilt with a pattern of yarn tie-offs, also in blue.
Several days ago, Kaiden was discharged from the NIC unit, and Gary and Kayla were finally permitted to bring him home where big sister Reagan got to meet her little brother for the first time. Later that day, Bill, Allie, and I delivered the gift, meeting in person–with tears in our eyes–our great-nephew, though from a distance, of course.
As Kayla lifted it from the box, her eyes, too, welled with tears–immediately recognizing the various fabrics that make up the simple quilt.
And though it will be some time before Kaiden understands fully the gift’s meaning, I pray he will sense the presence of Papaw each time he’s wrapped up in it–a blanket sewn in sorrow, bound with joy.
Dearest Kaiden, these are words that I believe Papaw is speaking over you, though the actual author of this is unknown:
…I’m not separated from any of you, dear children. I’m just closer to God and understand better the ways in which prayers and faith can open [doors] through which God can and will help you. I’ll be able to love you with all my heart, and without anything in that love that will make me feel as if I wanted to control or bother you. Don’t wear mourning. And think of me as alive, alive beyond your farthest thought, and near, and loving you, at last, far as the winds of heaven. I’m learning more and more things I wanted to know and growing more toward what God wants me to become. Love one another. Hold fast to [love], whether you understand one another or not. Remember nothing really matters except being kind to each other and to all the world, as far as you can reach.
Your loving [Papaw],
We’ll love you here, Kaiden Ronald. Papaw is loving you from heaven!
Dearest Jesus, thank you for Kaiden Ronald, and bless each and every day of his life. May he know You from an early age and follow You every day of his life. And may those of us who call You our Sweet Savior and Shepherd encourage this Little Lamb on his journey–today and always. Amen.