Death of a Parent Faith Grief

The Grey Sweater

Written by Harmony Vuycankiat

Folding the laundry gets me down sometimes. It’s a mindless activity, really. My brain runs on autopilot as it remembers the old days when laundry only took up a small percentage of my time. Nowadays, I can spend up to four hours in one afternoon doing laundry for my tribe of six people.

I drift into a mechanical rhythm as I go through my three step process:

  1. retrieve
  2. fold
  3. put away

(Granted, this is an ideal scenario- I don’t typically make it through all three steps in one day!)

While I was going through the motions this morning, my hands picked up a worn, shapeless, grey sweater from the pile. It used to belong to my dad. Now it’s mine and I proudly wear it on the days that remind me of him the most. The days when the smell of pine invites me into a memory of picking out a Christmas tree together at a farm in the mountains. When the cool, crisp air of fall beckons me to remember Thanksgivings past as I breathe it deeply into my lungs.


I separate the cold weather items for storage from the hot weather items and this chunky, misshapen sweater calls out to me from beneath the pile. It says, “Wear me on the warm, summer days, too.”

But, I can’t. Oh, I want to. The reality is, though, that if I put that sweater on in May, I’ll sweat right through it on those 90 degree days of June, July, and August, too. I’ll just rationalize my wearing of it through the heat because, eventually, the frigid winter will come around again. Might as well keep it on, I’ll say to myself. The more I wear it, the thinner it will get. So much use will inevitably render it no good for what it was originally intended: warmth.

When my dad passed away, my worst fear came to be. We all have things that we are scared of. For me, it was a world without my father’s presence. This sweater, as silly as it sounds, makes me feel his presence. It provides me with access, like a portal, into a pre-hospital bed world where life was warm even on the coldest days.

I know that looking back can be good for me. It can help me be grateful for the unconditional love of my father in a world where many people don’t have that same story. It can provoke me to change bad habits due to his always well-timed words of wisdom stuck on repeat in my mind. It can cause me to get down on my knees and pray that my children truly know how much my husband and I love them.

What fond recollection cannot do, however, is bring my dad back. Ultimately, that is my greatest wish. To feel his embrace instead of just having to remember it by wearing his old sweater. It’s an itchy substitute for the real thing. It can only really be worn on frosty days to experience its underlying thermal purpose.

This is why the hours of retrieving, folding, and putting away laundry are so important. Some days, I just can’t wear the sweater. So I touch it, smell it, (even though it’s been washed I still feel like I can smell his cologne) and then I store it in a large Rubbermaid container until October rolls around again.

I save up my memories all summer long so that in the burnt orange fall, I can open that bin with expectation. Oh, the cold days might come with a flurry of snow, but I don’t have to worry about being unprepared. I am always warm in my dad’s grey sweater.

About the author

Harmony Vuycankiat

Harmony is a proud Air Force wife and blessed mother of 4 children. Her heart’s cry is to love without limits and live without regrets. She plans to use her criminal justice degree to tangibly help marginalized women and children all over the world. Writing, singing, and running are her methods of soul therapy and Starbucks coffee is her happy juice. The quote that she lives by is, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say ‘I’ve used everything you gave me.’ ” (Erma Bombeck)


  • All the feels ? I’m so sorry for your loss. Losing my father is one of my biggest fears in life. I may need to start stockpiling some of his sweaters ? Thank you for sharing xo

  • So sorry for your loss! Such a touching post. Everyone finds a way to cope and find solace. I hope his memories fill you these summer months until you get to take it back out once again.

  • So beautiful that you still have a piece of your dad that can help you feel connected to him. I miss my dad, too, and I think of him a lot. My son is my connection to him, and I see my dad in him all the time. Thank you for sharing your touching story.

  • I have a jacket of your dad’s that I keep in my closet. I take it out from time to time for the same reason that you wear this sweater. Your dad was one of the most wonderful people and I loved him dearly. As a fatherless child who’s mother dated a lot of losers, Uncle Scott was the one man in my life that showed me what love from a man is supposed to look like. He was always so warm and understanding. I think I miss him more than I miss anyone. I don’t think anyone in our family knows how special he was to me. Thank you for writing this. I love you!