What an amazing reminder I had this week about the undeniable link between quilts, and our life’s journey. Truly, from the secret quilt codes of the Underground Railroad, to the proud, patriotic Victory quilts of the 1940s, they not only mark our nation’s history, but they also mark milestones and turning points in our everyday lives. From weddings, births, graduations, anniversarys and birthdays, to moving away, experiencing an illness, or changing jobs…there seems to be a quilt for every season. We fold them at the ends of our beds, hang them on our walls, and snuggle with them on the couch, yet they warm so much more than our toes…they warm our hearts…they tell stories of courage, of triumph, of freedom. They give us hope, and remind us of good times passed. Generation after generation, they celebrate with us, they warm our homes, and they mourn with us.
I’ve made so many quilts…for bouncing new babies, or blushing newlyweds…even quilts made of clothing to offer a tangible connection to a loved one passed on. But this week I made a quilt different from any before…a quilt that caught my heart in each simple stitch.
A week or so ago, I received an unexpected call from a sweet friend with a special request. A dear friend of her’s, Jenny, a vibrant, talkative, and thoroughly beloved daughter, sister, and friend to many, at only 40 years old, was nearing the end of a hard-fought battle with a very rare digestive disease. She was expected to last just a few days more…and in recent weeks, had asked friends to please help her make goodbye quilts to give her mother and twin sister. She picked the colors, and the style of the quilt, and friends immediately took action- buying fabric, cutting it into squares, and distributing the squares to loved ones to decorate and write notes of love and support on. Each time a block was finished, they would sneak it in to show her (careful not to let family see). Each one absolutely lit up her face…this would be the perfect final gift to leave behind…
Jenny had now slipped into a constant state of sleep, and with just days left, they needed an experienced hand to quickly piece, quilt, and bind them. Honored & humbled, I of course agreed, and within 48 hours, the squares were in my mailbox.
All of the sudden my morning sickness and lacking dinner plan didn’t feel so important.
What a delight it was to have my eager 3yo involved in the project- pulling off the tape after basting, and taking out safety pins. She lovingly admired the happy drawings, the painted handprints, the photos of smiling loved ones. She quickly noticed the crosses on many of the squares…”Oh wow, look Mamma, so many crosses to remind us that Jesus died for us!” I know Jenny would have loved to hear that. Jenny was SO passionate about sharing Christ’s love at every opportunity…including her own funeral service, which she asked to be a light-hearted event, joyfully celebrating her return to God. She hadn’t an ounce of self-pity, no sorrow- just endless concern for others, constantly thinking of ways to lift people up.
I sat huddled on the couch, stitching down the binding on the last quilt, when I got the call that Jenny had passed away that morning. My stitches took up speed, and the quilts were quickly wrapped in tissue, boxed up, and shipped out.
Never in my life have I seen such simple quilts carry such profound meaning…for Jenny, for her family, for me, and for every loved one who made a block. It really gave me a fresh perspective, not only on life itself, but on the art I love most:
A quilt doesn’t need to have the trendiest designer fabric, or the trickiest Y-seams, or most elaborate quilting…it just needs to have love and meaning, in every single block and every single stitch. I’m challenging myself, with each new quilt I make this year, and every year, to spend more time thinking about who the quilt is going to and why, than I do about the design and the fabrics.
Won’t you join me?