By Julie Oldendick, Lula’s mom and Guest Author
It’s tough to begin. I’m a private person, but my oldest daughter Lula changed that. She would be almost 14 now. I have great memories and wonderful pictures to remind me of a different life I used to have with many exciting stories of not-so-small events that came easily for other ‘typical’ kids but not for Lula. At the same time, I recall the disagreements with doctors, the home nurses not showing up, and the numerous challenges that go with raising a daughter with special needs.
Lula had a beautiful smile, infectious laugh, and a loud, cranky scream at times. She wasn’t perfect, I mean, she was my feisty kid after all. Butterflies loved her, and she loved them. She had an amazing room with fabric butterflies fluttering from the ceiling. Many nights, we snuggled in her big-girl bed and fell asleep together to the hum of different machines. She had three younger siblings that all learned to walk by pulling themselves up on her wheelchair and taking her for a slow, yet exciting ride. It was a “normal insane” environment for us. I was so proud of my family.
Two days before Christmas when she was 8 ½ years old, she passed away. It came suddenly without warning, and we still don’t know why. We have all the pain of death and the joy of her life at the same time. It’s been challenging to cope, but I must ask myself, “Why wouldn’t this happen to us? What makes us so special to avoid and escape the ups and downs of a love cherished and lost?” And also, ”What can I do to honor Lula and share a message of hope?”
One of my gifts is knitting wacky goodness. I enjoy creating quirky critters and goofy yarnbombs with vibrant colors and positive messages. I learned to knit when Lula was a wee baby, and I sat through endless medical appointments that included more than 2 hours just in the waiting room. Instead of wringing the staff’s neck for making us wait, I used my power for good by clicking my sticks and making baby hats, blankets, etc. Eventually, I found my niche and enjoy making a variety of wackadoodle plushies and yarnbombs. (The plushies are sold locally and include a brief story about Lula. The yarnbombs are knitted pieces that are attached to street signs and spread a message of happiness.)
I always include a tag with my yarnbombing that explains that it’s a random act of kindness to make you smile. Lula’s name is on it loud and proud! I’ve had lots of people stop and ask what it is and that gives us a chance to chat about life and things in general. I have learned that there are so many of us who are connected by grief, and we can support one another just by listening and being kind. My heart still hurts, but it’s not filled with anger or depression; now, it’s filled with hope and creativity, and I look forward to finding new ways of paying it forward. God is using my past troubles and hardships to make me stronger for today. Those hardships which helped form my character, now reveal it. I can share a message of hope effectively because I’ve suffered and hurt. I sought out others who faced similar hurts, and likewise, others trust my comfort because I’ve known pain too. I want my life to reflect the message of hope that I have.
I teach junior knitting classes and use that time to connect with kids about being a positive influence. You can’t worry about what you can’t control, and you can’t really control much so… But we aren’t always serious. Lots of times, we’re laughing about silly topics while our hands are busy knitting and creating something personal. It’s a great way to share with them that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.
I always take pictures of my classes and yarnbombs and post them on social media with a positive quote. I enjoy the many new ‘virtual friends’ around the world that I now have too. There’s a lot of us using craft-therapy to spread a positive message.
I still have so many questions and so many prayers that I think went unanswered, but in reality, I think God answered them just the way it was meant to be.