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Prayer shawls, chips and chocolate


Comforting those who grieve

By Donna Frischknecht Jackson | Presbyterians Today

A selection of shawls made by Saint Andrew’s ladies group are included in the grief relief kits. Sheila Black

One day, as the Rev. Susan Brasier explored the nooks and crannies of her new church in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, she discovered two prayer shawls stashed in the back of a cupboard. The interim pastor found herself north of the U.S. border thanks to her Canadian husband. “When the pandemic hit, we decided to ride it out in Canada, and so I took an interim position,” she said. Brasier began at Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian in September 2020.

The discovery of the shawls reminded Brasier of a “grief relief kit” she made years ago when a young woman’s husband died. In that kit was a prayer shawl just like the one she now held in her hands. Also included in the kit were food items. “When we stand in that suspended space between life and death, we need food made with love,” said Brasier. “We need friends to feed us during the days of shadows and sorrows.” Brasier filled her first grief relief kit with chocolates and chips. “For whatever reason, the salty crunchiness of corn or potato chips is deeply comforting,” she said.

Brasier then adds something playful that is connected to the person who has died. Items have included Legos, coloring books and even a Matchbox car. With the resurrection of the grief relief kits came the call among the knitters in Saint Andrew’s ladies group to create more shawls.

“I am now awash with prayer shawls — and more are still coming,” said Brasier. Congregations that have found themselves with many prayer shawls turn to a hospitals and memory care facilities to share the knitted comforts with others.

Of course, the shawls at Saint Andrew’s will always find a home in a grief relief kit. “As we stand beside our friends and watch them in pain, it is nice to have something to do that is meaningful,” said Brasier.

Donna Frischknecht Jackson is editor of Presbyterians Today.

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