“A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter. He who finds one, finds a treasure.” — Sirach 6:14
In 1985, I gave birth to a baby girl. We named her Karen. She had all her fingers and toes. She had big, round eyes that saw me smile at her. Her little nose was a miniature version of mine and she turned her head to look at me when she heard my voice. She died when she was just three days old. She was a beautiful angel, but . . . I wasn’t meant to keep her.
After a few years, Ted, Laura and I were blessed with another baby girl – Robin. When she was two, I began working as a home party sales person. I would convince all my friends to host a party so I could sell my wares. Then, at the party, I would talk a whole new group of women into having a party of their own. I met Rena at one of these parties. In the little time that we spent together that evening, Rena told me about her little girl, who, like Robin, was two years old. She also said she would LOVE to have a party!
The next week I called Rena to book a party in her home. However, something caught me off guard – her husband answered the phone as Rena was not available. There is an unwritten code among home party sales women that we are never to talk to husbands. If a husband gets wind of a party before the wife commits, he might talk her out of the party. To cover my tracks, I told him I wanted to schedule a visit with Rena to give our toddlers an opportunity to meet and play.
Rena soon returned my call and we scheduled a “play date” for the girls and not a sales party. From the very first moment she entered my home, we hit it off. As our little girls were learning the virtues of sharing (rather loudly, I might add), Rena and I were relishing in all we had in common. We both enjoyed being creative with our crafts and sewing. We loved country decor and trying new recipes. We both had mothers who were twins. We were both named after our aunts. We had similar beliefs in everything from the best books to read to the importance of living a faith-filled life. Our comfortableness with each other felt more like a life-long friendship.
At some point near the end of our visit, it came up we were born the same year – of course! I shared my birthday, and I asked for hers. Her response gave me pause — November 22nd. This was Karen’s birthday! At that moment, I said to myself, “God had given me a very special friend.”
In the years to come, our friendship deepened. In 1993, Rena talked me into going to my first quilt class. After that we took another class and then another. Before long we were teaching the quilt classes together. We sought out quilt shows and quilt shops. (Rena’s husband probably would have saved a bundle if I had just done that home party instead.) Most of all, Rena and I were always looking for ways to get together to sew. When we were able to spend time together making quilts, it was a good day.
As I have often said, quilting is much more than just sewing pieces of fabric together. Rena and I always found it to be a spiritual experience where fabric and color could explain life. Some colors and fabrics blend beautifully while others just do not fit together. Much like Rena’s and my friendship, sometimes the quilts we have in mind to make turn out differently than originally intended. Often, the most loved and cherished quilt loses some of the patchwork.
I can’t remember ever being with Rena when she didn’t have something wonderful to say. Her thoughts about life were inspiring and her understanding of scripture was profound. Her words lingered inside me and made me a better person. When I look at all the beautiful quilts Rena created, I recall so much more than the process of choosing the fabric and cutting the blocks. I remember what we talked about and how we were feeling that day. I remember her smiling face and how grateful I was that she always laughed at my corny jokes. Mostly I remember how she loved and adored her family.
Rena was an exceptional friend. She was always ready and willing to go along with my crazy ideas. One time we spent the night in a fire house so we could have some uninterrupted sewing time. The absence of hungry husbands, cranky children, dirty dishes and soiled laundry was well worth the discomfort of sleeping in a damp and musty fire hall on a cement floor!
Rena never thought twice about dropping what she was doing because I needed a shoulder to cry on. She was full of sound advice and common sense. She grounded me and made me think. She had an uncanny way of looking at me and knew what I was feeling before I even had a chance to say a word. Like the perfect quilt, our friendship was comfortable, warm and deeply loved, but now a big piece of that quilt is missing. Rena died from cancer on March 25, 2007, at the age of 50, but my memories of her still keep me warm. She truly was a beautiful angel, but . . . I just wasn’t meant to keep her.
Happy Birthday, Karen and Rena!