Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Death Quilt

We all have a story whether it is a fairy tale or something straight out of a Stephen King novel.  My guess is most quilts have a story too ranging from emotional for both the maker and the recipient to just weird to all but the person who made it.  This is the story of a quilt that I almost did not finished, but in hindsight I am glad that I did.

When I saw the pattern for Interlocking Stars in the the January/February 2011 issue of Fons and Porter's Love of Quilting I had to make it.  Although the colors they chose did not speak to me.
 I decided to make the colored links alternating shades of pink and turquoise.  Which seemed like a great idea until I realized how much thought it was going to take to figure out how many tiny pieces of what to cut.  Out came the zip lock bags and markers so I could keep track of what was what.  I was still fairly new to quilting and this was the most complicated project I had tackled so it seemed to take for ever to get everything cut and organized.  Most of the pieces were in the 1.5 to 2 inch range. It is made up of two basic alternating blocks.  I was in the process of sewing the gazillion units to make the blocks when this quilt's story started.

It was Mother's Day, May 8, 2011.  My daughter had spent the night with my parents and my husband and I were to visit with them later that afternoon.  I had just spoke with my dad on the phone when I set back at the machine to sew.  He was happily watching TV and my mom and daughter were at the store.  Less that 45 minuets later my world would crash down and forever change.  The phone rang and the voice on the other end was the calm voice of my child but the words she spoke were hard to process.  "Mom, get here quick.  I think Papaw just died."  Everything froze.  I could hear my mother in the background and I knew things were serious.  My husband and I raced to my parent's house.  Luckily, we were able to get behind the ambulance and run.  I would like to say that this part of the story has a happy ending, but for our family, it did not.  My father suffered a massive heart attack and did not make it.  The next week was spent at my mother's side all of us trying desperately to make sense of things.  When we finally returned home and tried to make life seem normal again, I could not stand the sight of those quilt pieces or the thought of sewing.  I packed all the sandwich bags of fabric and the magazine into a plastic tote and stuffed it away.  I think it was months before I even turned my machine back on.

Now my story fast forwards to 2012.  By this time my small family had moved into a house beside my mother and I had once again started piecing quilts.  It was the end of October and hurricane Sandy was headed toward New Jersey and New York.  Our small town was expected to get hit with large amounts of snow and I stayed home from work.  Since I had just recently finished something, I thought enough time had passed that maybe I would work on my pretty pink and turquoise quilt again.  Out came the almost forgotten tote and all its small pieces.  I sorted everything out and scratched my head trying to figure out what in the world I was doing.
Several hours into it while entertaining myself on Face Book, I was devastated to learn that one of my best friend's (she more like family) mother had just passed away...of a massive heart attack, just like my dad.  We all knew her as Momo and loved and respected her deeply.  Another piece of our heart would be missing.
I just stared at the partially sewn blocks in disgust.  I know it sounds stupid but I thought "is someone going to fall over every time I touch this thing?"  I had not touched it in almost a year and a half and it is out for a few hours and we get the same news.  After things had once again settled, I shared the story with my friend and told her I didn't want to finish it.  Then I had a great idea, I would finish it and we would burn it.  I didn't want to look at it again.  Somehow I figured symbolically it would feel good and allow us to release some of the hurt and anger. A bond fire and wine was the answer.  Yes as crazy as it sounds it was the plan, I'd show this quilt who's boss.  As soon as it was together I dropped it off at the local quilt shop for quilting (I even told the long arm quilter to quilt it at her own risk I was not responsible for any more deaths) and a few weeks later it was back.
I called Jackie to tell her it was finished.  She loved it and as much as I hated to admit it I did too.  The burning did not happen (the wine probably did).  We decided it was our quilt and named it "The Death Quilt."  She even talked me into entering it into a local quilt show and it took first place in the wall hanging division.
It's a quilt that adds an extra bond to one of my best friendships.  I'm very thankful that she and her family are in my life.  
Though others may look at me crazy when I call it "The Death Quilt" she and I understand it really represents the love that we have for the ones we are missing.  I don't have to hate the quilt anymore.  My dad and Momo where beautiful souls and I'm happy that it represents them.  Plus as long as there are little things like this...
Face Dad spray painted on the building door.
I know he's still around.


im4jesuswvsp said...

Wonderful story. Feelings and images in my mind of that day came flooding back and makes my eyes glossy. Great read. I see and feel you becoming very successful in this career path. And feeling is the larger part of it!

Your Hubby

Brianna said...

So sorry to hear about your loved ones passing. I'm glad that you were able to finish the quilt and change what it meant for you.

Sandra Walker said...

This quilt is stunning Tish. Intricate piecing, and it's like links all through it, linking you to your friend, and each of you to your loved ones. I miss my dad still, 7 years after he died. Like you, I find him in places though. :-)

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