Judith “Judy” Ziegeweid always said she found her soul when weaving.
“It was such a meditative activity, and oftentimes profound thoughts came to me,” she once wrote. “It was a peaceful activity to do in the midst of a busy life of working and caring for my family.”
ALS slowly made it impossible to move her muscles, stilling her loom and shuttle.
Ziegeweid died June 16 at her Medina home. She was 59.
She was diagnosed in 2010 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. What began as a limp led to full paralysis.
Friends said Ziegeweid faced her illness with dignity and grace, finding strength in prayer and the support of her husband, Bob, their two daughters, and others who rallied to help.
“We watched as Judy slowly lost her ability to walk, use her hands and arms, breathe or eat on her own, or even speak,” said a close friend, Jeanne Smith of Plymouth.
Ziegeweid, an accomplished flutist, and Smith met in 2002 on the handbell choir at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in Medina. Years later, when Judy’s legs began to weaken and household chores became too difficult, Smith joined a couple of other women and began to clean for her. Smith was at her side for the next 3½ years, coordinating care by family members, church friends and others.
The needs were many, but someone always stepped forward in what Ziegeweid called “God moments.”
It was not only meals, but home remodeling, healing touch, cleaning, yard work, organizing Judy’s Faithful Friends at the Annual ALS Walk, hours upon hours in the Courage Center pool, reciting the rosary, and finishing weaving and craft projects that she had started.
The illness brought caregivers close to Ziegeweid and one another as they shared intimate details of their lives. It also brought deep relationships that she wouldn’t have had otherwise, as well as time to contemplate her relationship with God, said her husband, Bob Ziegeweid.
“It shortened her life by a lot of years but overall, it made it a lot richer than it would have been,” he said.
Ziegeweid used her retinas to write on a computer. She relied on a mechanical ventilator to breathe.
“As the ALS progressed and her suffering increased, Judy never surrendered her true self to despair, or self-pity, or anger,” said her friend, Eduardo Montes. “Instead, she offered it all to the Lord.”
Ziegeweid called her ALS her “sacred illness,” he and Smith said.
“She accepted that God had a plan for her that included ALS,” Smith said. “It seemed that the more Judy lost in physical strength, the more she and we gained in spiritual strength.”
In 2011, Ziegeweid became a candidate in the Benedictine oblate community, deepening her faith.
“Even though I can no longer weave, I can find other activities, prayers and study that can help guide me,” she wrote. “I can still listen to my heart, and let my choices and decisions and actions flow from my response to God’s gracious generosity to me and to this community.”
On May 29, Ziegeweid became an oblate. During a ceremony, Sister Laureen Virnig, director of oblates for the Order of St. Benedict, spoke of how Ziegeweid’s weaving had changed:
“Out of pain, you weave prayerfulness; out of frayed, tired and worn threads, you weave trust; out of the generous responses of parishioners and friends, you weave gratitude …”
On June 10, Ziegeweid decided to end extraordinary measures that kept her breathing. Smith sent this e-mail to many:
“As you may know, Judy has experienced some large declines in her health. Knowing this, Judy feels that she is ready to be called home. She is at peace with the decision and feels it is right with her soul. Monday, June 16 will be our last day with Judy.”
She was preceded in death by parents, Norman and Helen Polster.
In addition to Bob, her husband of 34 years, survivors include daughters Molly Malik and Rachel Ziegeweid, and siblings Jim Polster and Ann Maik.
Services have been held.