Color is a celebration of sight, an experience of vision and a reflection of light. The qualities of hue and brightness awaken our vitality and stir our emotions. Texture is the tactile quality of physical substance and touch. When color and texture are combined, they create an entity that can be grasped and held. Long time Marco Island resident Marie Senechal uses her creative talents to bring the forces of color and texture together, in a blanket approach of healing.
For many years, Marie Senechal, age 87, has been sewing, knitting and crocheting colorful blankets, afghans and quilts for children in need. For a child, a blanket can be a source of warmth, comfort and security. Sometimes a blanket can feel like a best friend. Marie donates her creations through seven different charities, including the local Providence House, Friendship House, St. Matthew’s House, and the Naples Shelter for Abused Women and Children. Through Airline Ambassadors International and its sub-group, Miracles in Action, Marie has donated her works to children in Guatemala, Mexico and Peru. Whether she is seated at her sewing machine or on the couch with her hooks and needles, Marie’s hands work diligently for 8 hours each day. She jokingly describes her work as an addiction, albeit one from which she hopes to never recover. “I used to take Sundays off, but then I realized that God’s children get cold on Sundays, too,” she says with tireless dedication.
Her blankets are made in bright vibrant hues, sending a message of comfort and joy. “I am not a ‘beige’ person,” says Marie. “I like color and happiness!” Mariewent on to say, “At my age, I don’t want my life to be all about myself. I want my life to be about helping God’s children. I want my time on earth to be useful.”
Marie is also proud to say, “I like to recycle.” She likes to use scraps and remnants of fabrics, much of what is given to her from other crafters. There is very little unused material from her creations. “I don’t like things to end up in landfills,” she says with a smile, pointing to her bits of cloth and yarn in every color of the rainbow.
Marie is grateful for the generosity of Fairfield (www.fairfieldworld.com), a company based in Danbury, Connecticut that has donated quilt batting for her cause. “They know this is a mission for me, not a hobby,” she says with gratitude.
To fully appreciate the depth of this incredible lady’s spirit, one must learn of her journey. Born in Saint-Nicolas, Quebec, she was the oldest of 10 children. Their mother died when Marie was just 16 years old, leaving behind all of the children, including a baby, only 8 months old. Marie was then in charge of raising the family.
Marie went on to marry and raise three daughters and a son. The family vacationed in Marco Island in the 1970s and purchased a condo with some other families. In the mid-1980s, after a divorce, Marie returned to Marco Island on her own to purchase the home where she still resides and happily thrives. Marie confided that those first days after the divorce were not easy, but she found strength in the blueness ofthe water, the earth tones of the sand and the golden sun in the sky; the healing colors of Marco Island. “I cried on the beach, I prayed on the beach, and I healed on the beach,” she said, demonstrating her faith. She now maintains a friendship with her ex-husband, even displaying an old photo of the two of them on the wall. She wisely explained, “Forgiveness is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves. Once you learn to forgive, you set yourself free.”
As the years went by, there was even more need for healing. Twenty-one years ago, Marie was diagnosed with amelanotic melanoma, an often deadly form of skin cancer. In general, prognosis is poor with a high recurrence rate. At the time, Marie prayed, “Lord, if you want me, I’m ready to go. You can have me. If not, I need to work.” Marie bravely endured the surgical removal of her big toe, and has been a cancer survivor ever since.
In the days to follow, Marie learned a new path of healing. In 1999, she took painting classes at the Marco Island Center for the Arts. She proudly displays many of her works in her home. Above the couch in her living room, there hangs one of her creations, a three piece scenic mural. It reminds one of a water-colored window with breathtaking hues of the earth and sea. Having packed her paintbrushes away, Marie reminisces of her days as a watercolorist, saying, “Painting was for my personal joy. Now my work is for the comfort and joy of others.”
In her decades on Marco Island, Mariehas never owned a car. For years, she managed to either walk to places where she needed to go or was fortunate to accept rides from some of her many friends. One day in 2002, while walking on San Marco Road, Marie was struck by a truck. She suffered severe injuries and faced a long recovery and rehabilitation, confined to a wheelchair for quite some time. Once again, through inner strength, faith and healing, Marie survived to continue her work here on Earth. “I’m not a wimp!” she states, with a smile and determination.
Marie worked as a nanny for 25 years on Marco Island, caring for children of local families and many vacationers at the Marriott. She “retired” from this job last New Year’s Eve. She continues to be an active member of the Marco Island Woman’s Club, the Marco Island Historical Society, the Marco Island Center for the Arts, and the Council of Catholic Women at San Marco Catholic Church, where she also sings in the choir. Her greatest joy lies in the work of her hands, blanketing God’s children with love. “I am just so happy that my life can be useful for someone else,” she says with pride.
There is a tremendous source of healing in our universe. When we learn to tap into that source, we accomplish great acts of healing for ourselves and others. Marie Senechal knows how to tap that source of divinity, seizing its grace to perform miracles. Through the work of her hands, her reflection of light shines upon children in need. May her wonderful world of color brighten our lives for many years to come!