“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” — Matthew 5:4
Over the last year, there have been many changes in my life. Last Christmas, I did not anticipate these changes. Sometimes God nudges us, lifting us from our complacent routine. Other times, he moves us, literally, to a new adventure. After 37 years in the same home, my husband and I are beginning a new journey, in a new home, and in a new state. I will write more about this in the coming months.
For now, I would like to share my presentation of the 2017 McLean’s Hospice Memorial Quilt. Those who lost loved ones in 2017 in the McLean’s Care Facility were invited to create a design on a 6-inch fabric square in honor of that loved one. These squares are assembled into a quilt. This was my seventh and my final quilt for them. Here is a transcript of my speech and the poem I wrote for the quilt unveiling ceremony:
“Lights of Hope Ceremony”
Last year, I had many time constraints due to my daughter’s fall wedding. This year, I did not anticipate a time challenge, beyond the normal, until my husband and I decided to move to live near that daughter in North Carolina. This is my last memorial quilt for McLean’s.
Thankfully, once again, wonderful helpers rose to the occasion to help with the making of this year’s quilt. My first thanks go to Carol Blouin and Kathie Fallon who gave hours of their time to not only help assemble the quilt, but to help with the design and placement of your blocks. Most importantly, we enjoyed our time together, giving me some peace during this hectic time of transition. In addition, Kathie hand-stitched the binding – a very time-consuming undertaking, as you will soon see.
Next, I thank all of you who took the time to design a fabric square to honor your loved one. I know it is not always an easy task to first think of the best way to honor a person on the surface of a 6-inch piece of cotton, and then to tap into your creativity in order to make it. I thank you for taking the time and for trusting me with your treasured personal memorial.
As for the staff here at McLean’s, I cannot give enough thanks. Year after year I am amazed to see how everyone here works to care for the hospice patients and continue their work with the patients’ families and friends, caring for and honoring the tremendous grief which follows the loss. This annual ceremony and the quilt are just two of the many ways they continue the ministry of hospice. Thank you to Chris Novak for organizing all of the quilt blocks, the paperwork, the phone calls, sending lunch for the quiltmakers, and much more. I am immensely grateful to Chris for her support and attention to details. She is an incredible help to me and has become a treasured friend.
Thank you to Elizabeth Scheidel for her embroidery talents. If you look at all the quilts here, each year she stitches a poem to be worked into the quilt. Her beautifully stitched words inspire me and add so much feeling to the finished quilt. Thank you, too, to Jeri Pease for helping many of you by creating the photographed blocks. Thank you to all the staff and volunteers here for their unending kindness and compassion.Finally, I would like to thank my husband, Ted, for all of his support for this quilting ministry and for taking on so many household and other tasks I usually can’t get to during this time. Mostly, I am very grateful for his understanding of the passion I have for quilting and for my desire to use my skills to help others. These quilts would not happen if it were not for his love and support.
After the quilt blocks and fabric pieces are assembled, I spend many hours hovered over your memories as I do my tiny quilting stitches. Lots of thoughts come into my mind while I’m working. This year, my head seemed to be filled mostly with questions. I wondered how you all are doing as you cope with loss. I thought about my times of grief, and wondered how I managed to get through. I questioned why I purchased a quilt at Bed, Bath & Beyond for my guest room because I haven’t had time to make one. This year in particular as I face moving to a new home to begin again, I found myself asking why do I do this work?
If you look closely at each of quilts I have made, you will see I was always sure to incorporate a little Mountain Laurel and a Robin. These are to represent my daughters, Laura and Robin. When Laura was in elementary school and was learning about state emblems, she asked, “Mom, why did you name me after the state flower and Robin after the state bird?” I honestly hadn’t realized we did that, but once I knew, I was happy about it. Perhaps it was a subconscious thing because I loved living here in Connecticut. I include my daughters in the quilts because they have inspired me to do my best work. They were always looking on and therefore, I was motivated to be a good example.
You will also see butterflies in all of the quilts. These are to represent my daughter, Karen, who died in infancy. When my husband and I were grieving, most everyone was kind, caring and helpful. However, there were those few who said things like, “you’ll have another,” or “it’s better to lose her now rather than later.” I know those people were trying to be helpful in their own way, but to me it felt like they were saying her life wasn’t that important and my grief was insignificant.
A few years later, a young mother in our community was given a horrible diagnosis with a
dire prognosis. I wasn’t close enough to her to know what to do, but I wanted to do something. I decided to make her a quilt. I took that quilt around the town to ask her friends and family to sign it. I had no idea what to expect, but the quilt took on a life of its own as it was passed from the school to the town hall to the churches and more. The back of the quilt was filled with messages of encouragement and love. Most signers also wrote how much this woman meant to them. It became a warm and comforting affirmation of this young woman’s life and it greatly consoled those her loved her.
This began my work – to create quilts that honor, celebrate, affirm and remember. Through my personal experiences with grieving together with what I have learned while creating these quilts, I have come to understand that every life has value and everyone’s loss needs to be comforted. I hope this quilt brings you some comfort as you continue to live your life without your loved one. Their life was very important and your sadness is a testament to all they were. I am deeply sorry for your loss.
Finally, I like writing poetry. Each year my random thoughts, your quilt squares, and the final design move me to write a poem.
“A Life of Many Colors”
I saw a tiny tree leaf bud
in April’s first few days.
It’s reddish shell was striking
amidst the early morning haze.
The infant leaf emerged
as spring’s sunlight climbed bright.
The delicate green signaled hope
to the barren Earth’s delight.
How wonderful is May,
lush trees and blooms abound?
Deep pinks, yellows and blues
a stage for the spring birds’ sound.
Gardens of the summer months
in June, July and August’s heat
grow purple, red and orange shades
splendid gifts for us to eat.
Like an orchestra’s climactic surge
Autumn’s leaves burst forth bold,
The magnificent October hues
rich amber, rust and gold.
I lost you in November
when the Earth was gray and bare.
The brilliance of fall was gone
leaving darkness and despair.
But your life was full of color
reminding me of things to do,
Like always look for rainbows
though the sky might just be blue.
Your rosy disposition
and your golden laughter unfurled
gave to me a life’s objective
to share color with the world.
Now I can face the winter
though arctic paths may block the way
I will hold fast to your life’s spectrum
dispensing color every single day.