I’m sewing a quilt for my son to take with him to college in the fall. I just started putting it together – but this project has been more than 18 years in the making.
I’m using recycled denim – jeans from his childhood that range from size 2 to size 14…the pairs that were too scuffed in the cuffs to pass down to his little brother. Ripping out seams, cutting the patches, and pinning blocks together (in my haphazard way) seems like a metaphor for my journey as a mother. Plenty of time for reflection – part of my mind wanders while the other half is trying to figure out how to fit these pieces together in a cohesive way. Or – if not perfect – at least respectable and finished in time for graduation. My son’s childhood will be wrapping up the same way – his car has a few dents, and he’s squeaking by in a couple of his classes, but I feel grateful and blessed that in less than two weeks, he will be marching up to the podium to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance” to receive his diploma.
The stitches in my quilt aren’t very neat or orderly – and neither was my parenting, to be honest. “Creative chaos” sums up my household. When I was pregnant with my son, my first child, 18 years ago (that feels like a blink of an eye and eternity, all rolled up into one crazy time warp!), I didn’t know where motherhood would take me. There wasn’t a map – just like there’s no pattern for this quilt. Piece by piece, we found our way here – although some patches were harder to integrate than others. In first grade, a little girl in his class died in a car accident – my heart is sad, thinking about Jordan as my son approaches another milestone that she never will. When she died, we stitched together not a quilt, but a mosaic birdbath. Perhaps I’ll write about that another day. My mind meanders like my seams – I keep breaking my thread here and there.
In the fall, my son will off to the University of Michigan (Go Blue!), far away from me in Los Angeles where he was born and raised. He is setting off on his own heroic journey –and part of my heart will travel with him. I’m going to hide a few Xs and Os and hearts in this quilt, just like Courtenay did in her illustrations for Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs. Maybe my son will see them, maybe he won’t – but I’ll know he’s safely tucked up with a lot of motherly love, even when he’s far away from me.
Making a quilt like this can be a wonderful project for remembering a loved one who has died. The act of stitching has been very therapeutic for me – and even little hands could help with the sewing. If a whole quilt seems intimidating, try starting with a small quilted project, such as a pillow sham or wall hanging.
If you don’t like to sew, but you love the idea of a memorial quilt, you can turn to someone like Rosie Rhine to help you. I found Rosie’s website online, and reached out to her (I couldn’t resist her company name! http://rhinoquilting.com/). Rosie is an amazing quilter (go to her website to see a multitude of inspiring designs). She has been creating custom bereavement quilts for eight years. Clients send her clothing items that belonged to their deceased loved one (Rosie can incorporate anything from christening gowns to sweaters to uniforms to t-shirts or dresses), and with love and care, Rosie crafts the fabric into “a beautiful, tangible, usable memorial.” Her designs range from traditional log cabin or block patterns to elaborate storybook quilts and abstract seascapes.
Rosie’s quilts have comforted many people, warming the bodies and hearts of children who have lost a parent, parents who have lost a child, and widows wanting to remember beloved husbands. “I love reaching out to anyone in pain and helping them out - and I imagine you do too - no matter their circumstances,” Rosie told me recently. “The pain of loss and grief reaches across all boundaries.” She tells each customer that her goal to “create a living memorial…a quilt which honors their loved one’s life, captures their spirit and helps you heal.”
Rosie cherishes the work she does, and the people who come to her for help -- and that’s evident in every stitch. Have you ever sewn a quilt to help yourself or a loved one heal from grief? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience!
Below are just a few of Rosie’s amazing bereavement quilts – you can learn more about the story behind each quilt on her website.