J was a remarkable woman, and there are so many things I could share about her interests, her talents, her generous nature, and her devotion to her family and church, but I want to share just one thing that was particularly special to me. The summer after my husband and I were married, we took a road trip out west to visit J and M, and J introduced me to patchwork. At that time, she was making a quilt--I think it was a Rail Fence, but I'm not sure because I knew nothing about pattern names back then. She showed me how to cut some coordinating fabrics into simple shapes and sew them together to make some blocks by hand. I worked on those blocks during our trip back home. A little later, my sister-in-law gave me a subscription to Quilter's Newsletter Magazine, and you know the rest of the story.
Between the time of J's initial diagnosis/surgeries and her first round of chemo, I decided to make her a quilt. Foremost in my mind was that it could not have pink in it. I was a hand quilter at the time, but there was no time for that. So I made a simple strip quilt in colors that I thought would appeal to her. (I don't recall if the pattern was mine or if I was inspired by a picture in a magazine. I do have a graph paper drawing of it that I made while I was planning it.) I sewed that quilt like a woman possessed during my spring break in April 2009 and tied it with perle cotton and some iridescent buttons that I found that mimicked the colors in the quilt. Until then, my gift quilts were in celebration of births, marriages and anniversaries. This was the first quilt I made for someone who was suffering, and it was an emotionally draining task. I spent the time focused on my feelings for J, and the quilt became a prayer for strength, comfort and hope--but there was also a lot of anger there for the cancer and what she had to go through.
Thanks to J I have had a love affair with quilting for more than 36 1/2 years. Quilting has given me so much joy and has been therapeutic and meditative as well. Quilting for me is prayer, and I don’t think I could do without it. I have difficulty expressing myself well in words—and quilting has given me a way to express what I can’t put into words. I don't think J knew that she would change my life so much when she started me on those little patchwork blocks that long ago summer, but I will be forever grateful to her.
J did not lose her fight with cancer. She triumphed over it by living her life to the utmost to the end and showing us all how to do that with grace and dignity. She passed away peacefully in the wee hours of Monday morning with her husband at her side.
I'm linking up today with Jenn at A Quarter Inch from the Edge for Throwback Thursday.