Trigger Warning: illness, loss of a parent
Grief touches us all, as it is part of the human condition. In this “Sewing Through Grief” series, we will be sharing stories from Sewcialists who have sewed through separation, death, illness, and recovery.
The last word I ever heard my father say was my nickname, Cint. I hated that moniker growing up because I felt “Jacinta” was the best name in the world. I felt my name was sexy, fun, sophisticated, exotic — and that it was so rude to give me such a mundane name! I never let anyone call me that, but it was better than “Frog Head” or “Porkalina Green” that dad would call me instead. But hearing it said for the last time by the person I loved most in the world flayed me in a way that no other word ever has, and no other word ever will. By the time I managed to fly from Seattle to DC and make it to his bedside at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, he was slipping in and out of consciousness as his body rapidly deteriorated from renal failure due to stage IV stomach cancer. Just 11 months from diagnosis to this point. How did we even get here? I didn’t know it when I finally arrived, but my dad would be dead two hours later and I wouldn’t return to DC for another five years, unable to handle being in the same area in which my father passed away.
I didn’t know it when I finally arrived, but my dad would be dead two hours later and I wouldn’t return to DC for another five years, unable to handle being in the same area in which my father passed away.
I was in shock for close to a month. I didn’t think this could happen. I had just talked to him, and now he was gone, never to return. This man who, in Exmouth, Western Australia when my mother abandoned us, would put me on the back of his bicycle and take me to daycare — a single dad at 23 in a foreign country with no family around — was gone. This man, who worked a night job as a janitor in San Diego, California while he was in the Navy because he believed in doing whatever you had to do to survive, was gone. This man, who when my car broke down lent me his and took the bus for weeks, was gone. This complex man, who loved WWII history, Action Jackson, cleaning, interior decorating, and vintage muscle cars, was gone. I’m a Christian so I believe in life after death, but I stopped going to church because I couldn’t believe God took away this man who so many people depended on and loved. I didn’t understand why people kept saying “He was called home for a reason.” Was that reason to cause me to age prematurely and be set adrift or what? “You couldn’t take my evil Joanne the real life scammer stepmother instead?” I would yell in my apartment for years (not the Joanne part. That addition came later when I finally joined Instagram).
I looked fine on the outside. I seemed to be taking it well, but I developed mystery food allergies and lost a ton of hair right after. I’m vain about my hair and was angry about becoming allergic to gluten because bread is life, but I didn’t know what to do. The pain just wouldn’t leave and I couldn’t sleep. I had stomaches every day, developed vertigo, and couldn’t smize like Tyra said. Smiles didn’t reach my eyes in those days. I thought about drugs, but again, I’m vain and didn’t want to mess up my face. I’m such a goody two shoes I wouldn’t even know where to buy them anyway. I would cry at random places, shop too much, and break down in meetings at work. I was emotionally unbalanced and became easily irritable. The pressure was building and I felt discombobulated. I knew that if I didn’t do something soon, I would burst. 3 days of bereavement corporate America? Try every day for the rest of your life.
Fear drove me to sewing; fear that if I didn’t do something I was going to hurt myself because I no longer valued anything, including my life. I was starting to excessively vintage shop my feelings when I came across a vintage sewing pattern on Google. The light turned on in my head. That’s literally how it happened, simple as that. Sewing joined the chat like, “BITCH GET IT TOGETHER BITCH,” and saved me. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. On weekends, I would sew from 10 in the morning to 1 in the morning. Weekdays, after work, I sewed until I couldn’t sew anymore. I couldn’t get enough. 450+ patterns, 5000 songs, 43 audiobooks, and over 200 yards of fabric later I have found my calling, truly. Sewing is an amalgamation of my reverence for the handmade; obsession with beauties from yesteryear like Dorothy Dandridge, Lana Turner, and Betty Grable; love of puzzles and problem solving; and passion for vintage clothing. There is not a more perfect thing that I could have done after my Dad died. I may have left the church and joined Bedside Baptist (ya’ll better catch this Southern Fried joke) but I truly believe God made this happen. Today I’m an editor for the Sewcialists, a sewing instructor, a member of the board for the American Sewing Guild Greater Seattle Chapter, and a business owner as I get ready to launch ShopJacintaGreen.com in mid-October.
Losing a parent when you’re young is like being a member of the world’s worst club. When people find out you’re a member of the “no parent” club they move away, as if losing a parent is a disease they don’t want to catch. It’s a club in which every single person will become a member of someday, but Americans don’t handle death well as I’ve learned. In our youth-obsessed culture, we all think we’ll have more time. You never have more time. And although I still can’t listen to “Sunflowers for Alfred Roy” by Mariah Carey without tearing up (she sang it about her own father who died when she was around the same age as me), I am continuing on with my passion, always giving a nod to the person who made it all happen. Love you always and until we meet again, Edward “Marty” Green.
Jacinta lives in Seattle, Washington with her vintage mink coats, extensive sequin jacket collection, and sewing machine named “Mariah Carey.” She loves the Lord, Mariah Carey, and to travel, sew, collect vintage, and dance on the ‘gram. She is a Senior Technical Manager in tech during the day but gets no sleep and runs her online clothing store, works as an editor for The Sewcialists, teaches sewing classes, and works as the Director of Operations for Parlor West Ventures, a beauty incubator.
Jacinta can be found on Instagram as PinkMimosabyJacinta and runs an online store selling her “Remixed by Jacinta” denim jackets and custom-made, vintage-inspired clothing at www.ShopJacintaGreen.com.