“When my firefighter husband was killed in the line of duty, I couldn’t bear the thought of bringing home his gear bag that used to sit on the floor of my bathroom near the tub. Seeing his gear bag typically meant that he was home momentarily between shifts, but seeing his bag and knowing he wasn’t coming home was a truth I didn’t want to face.
My best friend agreed to keep Ryan's gear bag at her home. In a box separate from his gear bag are the clothing items, including his helmet, that were on him at the time of his accident. I remember being in her home one evening and I asked to see his clothes. With sympathetic eyes, she pulled down the brown box and gently placed it on the ground. I slowly opened the box, pulled out his scuffed and broken helmet, held his shirt in my hands and released tears I thought would never end.
I placed everything back in the box. And left it all there in her garage.
Several months later, just days before the one year anniversary of my husband’s passing, I received a message via Instagram from a woman I had never met before. She wanted to share her gift with me.
With such tender words, she explained the details of her craft. Upcycled leather cuffs. I continued reading her message and when I got to the part about the particular cuff she wanted to make for me, my heart was immediately overwhelmed.
She asked to make a cuff for me….using my husband’s work belt.
Before I could finish reading her sweet message, I was already nodding in agreement with her idea. Yes, yes! Oh my goodness, yes!
I called my best friend and asked her to pull my husband’s belt from that brown box in her garage. She shipped the belt to April and I patiently waited to hear that it had been received.
It wasn’t long before a pink envelope appeared in my mailbox. I was so excited to open it.
Before I opened the bag holding my precious cuff, I first read her sweet handwritten words. Not only was her heart so generous, but her soul is equally as beautiful. She not only carefully held Ryan’s belt before working with it, but she prayed over my family while holding it in her hands.
When I finally opened the bag and pulled out the cuff, I could only stare at it. My heart was consumed with so much emotion that I couldn’t even cry.
I held it in my hands for a while before putting it on my wrist. Still smiling, it wasn’t until I placed it on my wrist when my heart finally released the emotion I had been holding in.
But I wasn’t crying out of sadness. My tears were a result of gratitude mixed with joy - this was more than an up cycled leather cuff. With my husband’s belt wrapped around my wrist, it felt like a hug. The cuff hugged my wrist so perfectly, so tightly - just like the hugs my husband used to give to me.
I am so grateful for April’s heart. Without her beautiful craft and generous heart, my husband’s work belt would just be another item collecting dust in a garage. But instead, she brought it to life.
And her gift allows me to feel the hugs of my husband every time I put it on.”