My dining room looks like an entire luggage cart exploded, and not in the good way.
In a futile attempt to sort for laundering, there are piles of clothes everywhere. Combining swimsuits, linen shirts, wool socks, cotton tank tops, wool sweaters, sandal socks and long-sleeved heavy wovens into compatible loads presents a unique laundry challenge. I also have all kinds of keepsake treasures, sympathy cards, a guest book, a tie that belonged to Dad, and over in the corner laid over a chair - the family quilt. It did not start out being called that, but has become that as a result of life (and death) just…. happening.
The double wedding ring quilt was originally a gift to my parents on their 45th wedding anniversary in 1995. My sister Pat pieced the top and she mailed it to me for the hand quilting. I had it spread out on my dining room table for what seemed like an eternity (I was new to quilting at the time) and when I finished my part I mailed it to my sister Peg who did the binding. (Note to Peg – We still all believe you farmed it out to someone else to do the beautiful, turned edge binding. I’m just sayin’….) We gave it to them on their anniversary and they had it on their bed for many years.
In 2001 we lost Mom to pancreatic cancer. Shell shocked and grieving, we at least had the presence of mind to know her casket should be draped with a quilt – but which one? She had made so many beautiful quilts. We decided on this one and it looked just beautiful. Our plan was to cut the quilt in to 3 pieces (for each of the 3 daughters who made it) and call it good. Thankfully, as we stood there with a scissors in hand we realized that if we cut up that quilt we would have the unholy wrath of our mother upon our heads for all eternity. So we left it with Dad. He put it back on his bed and for the next almost-10 years he kept it as a keepsake of her.
Those ten years were a tremendous gift. Mom always said, “When you call home, if a man answers – hang up.” Mom wanted to be the first on any scoop. Consequently, Dad always played back-up to Mom so those first visits home post-Mom were a little strange. We actually had long, terrific conversations. I learned so much about him, his youth, his life, just everything – and it was wonderful. Bonus – we had some seriously great laughs. I always took a hand sewing project home with me, I think he liked watching me sew and it removed the necessity of feeling like I always had to have something to say. I have great memories of watching football and baseball games with Dad, chatting, silent, commenting, silent, sewing, silent……. redefining “quality time” in a way I hope you are all lucky enough to realize in your lifetimes.
In the past few years his health plummeted, the Parkinsons ramped up and was joined by dementia and a host of other issues. He moved from assisted living to nursing home to skilled nursing care. His death is a most conflicted mess of emotions – I cry for both grief at losing him and relief that his suffering was finally and mercifully at an end.
Out came the family quilt, placed lovingly on his casket. It looked so right. The other half of that wedding-ring couple was reunited and things just seemed to be back in balance. As a family we have decided that the quilt will be placed on all of our caskets (or urns placed on top of it) when we leave this earth. I like the eternity of the linking circles in the quilt, the connection with our parents that it represents, and the fact that it is a physical, touchable reminder of the power of love – the love of our family, and especially the love of the two people who gave us life.
Sidebar: When Grandma Major (Dad’s mother) was in the nursing home, my mother made her a lap quilt out of scraps of our old dresses and pantsuits. This was so long ago that most of the squares were polyester double knit (eeessh). We still have the precious keepsake and it was covering Dad when he left us. The hospice worker on the final night vigil had with her a Methodist hymnal. While baptized a Catholic when he married my mother, he was born and raised as a Methodist.
How is that for interlocking bands coming into full-circle perfection?