Monday, February 28, 2005

Mourning Samplers

Why did thousands of people, mainly young girls, do mourning samplers in the 1700-1800's? Why do so many of us love them now? I admit that they fascinate me. Some of the verses are terribly morbid, some poetic, all of them filled with pathos.

The picture above is the first mourning sampler I did. I was drawn to it for reasons I don't really understand. I missed my grandmother who had died a few years before I did this sampler. She was an important person to me and she was gone. Life had gone on without her as it always does, but I wanted to bring her along. Somehow working on this sampler and hanging it on my wall was a way of making a part of our lives. There was a link that people could see between a previous generation and me.

Working on it also brought me closer to my feelings about the loss of my grandmother. I was afraid of death. I couldn't stand the thought of it and avoided even the discussion of it. When my grandmother was dying, I told myself that she had lived a long and full life. She had stayed in her home until the month she died. I had seen her recently and had a good visit. I had been there when she was in the hospital and said my good-bys. It wasn't going to get any easier than this and I had to face it. It was time to grow up. I did, and the sampler helped. As I stitched the piece, I thought about the good things in our relationship. I thought about how lucky I was. The girl who made the original sampler dealt with a lot more death than I would in the 20th century. How many siblings had she lost? Did she even make it to maturity?

I'm sure that there are a lot of reasons for making these samplers. It was the response of a nation when our first president and leader, George Washington died. Thousands of samplers were made to honor him and to deal with the grief. More about that in the next blog.

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