Today is the first day of our Christmas sale at the University of Alberta Hospital. We have 4 long tables set up, full of the wonderful hand crafted items from the Keiskamma Trust. There are warm felted scarves, tea cozies, aprons and tea towels, brightly coloured shopping bags, elephant cushion covers and beaded ornaments for the season. Among these is a large sculpted wire angel adorned with beaded wings and a definite masculine profile.

We proudly tell the story of the artists, the embroiderers, of Carol and her vision. We share how we are partners and our mission is to raise funds and awareness for the people of Hamburg in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

There are many different types of people who pass by the sales tables: patients, family members, doctors, nurses, janitorial staff and those who are just taking a warm shortcut through the hall of the hospital on a cold December day.

A young healthy looking woman stops by peruse the merchandise. Neil and Marilyn engage her in conversation and relate their experiences of visiting the studio where the products are made. She decides to purchase a number of items; stuffed elephants, cloth giraffes, felted mama dolls and sturdy practical bird aprons. She continues looking at the items laid out on the tables and walks over to where the Christmas ornaments are. I show them to her and then she says, “I’m looking for an angel.”

I show her the small beaded ones, the dark skinned felted ones and then I think, “Shall I show her the odd, large wire angel with its open body and flexible wings which we’ve been trying to sell for years?”

I show it to her. I tell her it is on sale. I tell her I think it would cast a lovely shadow under special light conditions. She looks at it carefully and with a surprising affirmation she says, “I will take it. It will remind me of my donor. He was a young man. I have his heart and lungs.  Today I am celebrating my three month checkup.”

I do not know what to say. I bumble with words like, “What a gift, what a complicated gift of hope and loss this is.” She understands, we chat some more about the complex relationship that is donor and recipient and she is thrilled to have the angel which will sit on the pinnacle of her tree this Christmas. She says it is such a perfect symbol.

Who would have thought that this reduced, gangly wire angel could become such a profound symbol in a person’s life? Such is the gift of the artists of the Keiskamma Trust.

Evelyn Martin (Board Member of Keiskamma Canada Foundation)