Catching My Breath: How Sewing Is Helping Me Grieve and Heal

15 March 2023

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Content warning: death of a loved one.

I was born into my mom’s creative world: a world of quilting, embroidery, painting, and beading. A world of discovery and play and imagination. From a young age I remember being in my mom’s sewing studio staring at a neatly organized wall of fabric, each piece rolled up and stacked according to colour. I remember threads and thimbles and pins and needles, all put in their right places. A large cutting table. And, of course, the sewing machine in the centre of it all. Sewing machines, I should say.

As a kid I would sort buttons on the floor of my mom’s studio while she worked away creating beautiful things. She had one of those big coffee tins full of random buttons she had collected. I can still see us so clearly: Me, dumping the tin of buttons onto the floor and sorting them into piles, sometimes by colour, sometimes by shape, sometimes by the number of holes in the middle. Her, finishing up some elaborately pieced liturgical work commissioned by a local church. Or possibly starting a quilt that was intricately stitched using free machine embroidery. She would drop the feed dogs, remove the presser foot, and the sewing machine would become her pencil, her pen, her paint brush. It would become whatever she wanted it to be.

My mom died on January 26, 2019. She had phoned about three weeks earlier, on New Year’s Day, to tell me not to worry. She wanted me to know that she was in the emergency room because she hadn’t been feeling well, but that everything would be okay. I almost flew across the country that day, but, at my mom’s request, I waited a week. We soon found out that the cancer was already so advanced, there wasn’t much to be done. Those she loved were with her when she took her last breath. I was holding her hand. She went how she wanted to go. She had always told me she wanted to die like my grandad—her dad—to fall asleep and not wake up again. I felt relieved that she got her wish.

Image courtesy Rebecca Godderis. 

Copyright © Rebecca Godderis except as indicated.
image description: a portrait of a white woman; she is wearing glasses and a brightly coloured short-sleeve shirt; she looks directly into the camera with a half-smile

About Rebecca Godderis

Rebecca Godderis (she/her) is a bi/queer feminist sewist and academic. She was taught to sew at a young age by her mom, and then took a long break to focus on her academic career studying gender, health, social justice and community building. She rediscovered her love of sewing in her 30s when she began making her own clothes that were full of colour and actually fit her body! As she continues to embrace the joy of sewing, she is expanding her making beyond garments to include quilting and other textile art and needlework. You can find her on Instagram @im_in_my_studio.

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