As many of you know, on July 1, 2017 we lost my ex-husband John Wengler after his 81 day battle with Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer. At the end of his life I started thinking of how we were all going to move forward and was a bit overwhelmed realizing my responsibility in helping to keep his memory alive . After all, the girls are young with many milestones ahead, and he certain deserved to have some special presence. I needed a way to very simply infuse him into moments of their lives honoring him without being overwhelming, since I was going to be the one who was present for them all.
And so was born the idea that is now known now as “The Squares.”
John had a love and collection of Hawaiian shirts, and was often made fun of for his lack of fashion sense. Upon his death I was certain that no one would make a claim for these shirts. And they could be the subtle yet powerful token to help me out.
I had each of the girls place a square with him as they said their final goodbye and then I shared that I would make sure a square would be sewn into special moments of their lives – like graduation gowns and Christening blankets. Sometimes I just cut a square of a shirt and write simple words and phrases like “18th birthday,” “drivers permit,” – and leave them on pillows on special days.
They aren’t meant to be messages from beyond. They are meant to remind the girls that during moments big and small his spirit in them lives on as they move forward. I have learned that they keep the squares in special places and cherish the pile they are building.
I have struggled with the “is this really my job” when it comes to honor his memory – after all, he was my ex-husband. But he was a close friend, my co-parent – and I feel obligated to honor the peace we had – and I do this for my children – who lost a very special father way too young.
So, from now until eternity his memory will “own” the Hawaiian print – I’m convinced no one else will lay claim to it – certainly not the fashion industry.