Rosemary's Blog

The Journey of the Quilt
December 9, 2007, 4:47 pm
Filed under: Family and Friends

Rhonda Pearce is a dear friend of mine from Washburn, Iowa. She was my accreditation coach with HQAA and worked closely with me on-line for over a year as we got our companies Jordan Drug and Jordan Medical ready for our Medicare accreditation survey.

The relationship I had with Rhonda changed forever on June 6, 2007 when I got a call from our mutual friend, Mary Ellen Conway, that Rhonda’s fifteen-year-old son Brandon had died. Rhonda and I became sisters that day, sisters in grief.

I called Rhonda that day and will never forget how she haltingly described the devastation she, her husband Al and their younger twins were feeling. Gone was the confident woman who had guided me so professionally through the maze of accreditation. Gone was the life she had come to know.

December 6th was the six month anniversary of Brandon’s angel day. Sadly it did not register with me the importance of this particular day. I vividly remember back to 1992 when each Thursday then each 23rd of the month would propel me into a state of grief that was almost unbearable. Here was my friend Rhonda facing a milestone in the first year of her grief, a six month anniversary.

On December 6th I received a package from Rhonda. She and I had been trying to come up with a mutually agreeable date for her to come to Kentucky for a visit. Although we are sisters, we have never met. Those of you reading this who are bereaved parents understand this totally I’m sure. I have never met many of you but feel our spiritual connection.

Rhonda’s gift that arrived on Brandon’s anniversary was the most exquisite quilt I have ever seen. Over the months since Brandon’s passing, Rhonda mentioned numerous times how quilting was healing for her. Never had I dreamed she was working on a yellow butterfly quilt for me. This quilt is a work of art, a labor of love. I am humbled that it was made for me.

Rhonda included a letter, “The Journey of the Quilt,” that I share with you today.

“A few weeks after Brandon died, I went to my favorite quilt shop to get some fabric to make quilts for the twins and really just for something to keep me busy. I ran across this pattern and knew immediately that I just had to make it for you. You could almost say I was ‘driven’ to make it. I had just finished your book along with George’s. I was so touched by all that you do to ease the pain of others. I wanted to do something special for you to show my appreciation for the gift of yourself that you give.

A few weeks after purchasing the pattern I set off to the quilt shop to pick out the fabrics for the quilt. I hop into my car (which is new) and the radio will not work. What the heck? I must have hit the stupid thing 20 times on the hour ride there. I even pulled off the interstate and shut off my car thinking this might reset something. Nothing worked so I spent that time just thinking of you and our sons. As I turned up the lane to the quilt shop, I said aloud…’Well boys…I am going to make this quilt for your mom, I sure hope she likes it and I sure hope I can pull it off’ and as a parting shot I add and…’IF YOU CAN FIX MY DARN RADIO, THAT WOULD BE GREAT!!’ I leave the quilt shop about an hour
later loaded with beautiful fabrics and turn on my car and what do you know?…my radio works just fine and has since that day.

A big portion of this quilt uses a technique called Applique. I had never done Applique and was very apprehensive about it. I called a lady by the name of Julie Messerly who I planned to hire to do the machine quilting on this quilt. She is in the Iowa quilt guild and knows everyone and just about everything there is to know about quilting. She said she would be happy to help me but she just did not have time. She gave me a couple of names of ladies she thought could help. I called them and did not get much interest in assisting me. Somehow, I knew I would finish it no matter what, I was determined! Gave myself a little pep talk, I could do this!

A few hours later, Julie called me back to see what I found out. She said she just could not get me out of her mind (Brandon probably knew I was in over my head). I shared with her that I did not think the other women were too interested in helping me and told her I decided I would tackle it on my own. She said she really felt that this was something that I really needed to do on my own anyway…she was right. She did however share with me that she actually teaches machine applique and offered to come to my house and give me a private lesson, which she did. I also told her at this time I wanted to have her do the quilting once it was done. She said she would put my name on an open slot and that she wanted to do it free of charge. I explained to her that money was not an issue and I certainly did not expect her to do it for free. She insisted that she would only do the quilting if I allowed her to do it free of charge. The kindness of others never ceases to amaze me.

The quilt top went together pretty well. I was a bit nervous to tackle the applique and did a lot of practice work before I jumped in. Julie had taught me well and it went pretty good. I plan to do more applique as I really enjoyed it. Once the quilt top applique was done I did the hand embroidery of the inside of the butterflies. With the embroidery done I was ready to take the top to Julie for the machine quilting. She had the quilt for over a month before she was able to work on it. I was getting antsy to get it back. I felt lost without my project.

The day she called me to tell me it was done I was like a little kid; I could not get to her shop fast enough. When I walked into the shop the quilt was hanging on the wall and it nearly took my breath away looking at what she had done. She really is gifted. All the metallic quilting was done by her, as you can see she does beautiful work. I could not have completed this quilt without her. She is such a beautiful person who has taken me under her wing and is always willing to share her knowledge of quilting with me. She has a heart of gold and has become a very good friend. We both cried like babies the day I picked it up.

Once I got the quilt home I did the beading and binding by hand. I have to tell you…I don’t think I will ever do another quilt with beading as that part wasn’t much fun. Yours is one of a kind.

In looking at this quilt, of course one sees the beautiful yellow butterflies. I know what they represent to you and was what initially inspired me to make it. In the many hours I worked on this quilt it has come to represent so much more to me. It has become a symbol of hope to all parents out there who are suffering through the pain of losing a child. Hope that we can overcome the pain we feel, hope that we always remember our children, hope that we can learn to move forward and hope that in the midst of our grief that we can create something beautiful.

I apologize for the length of this letter however I just had to share this journey with you so that you would understand what this project has meant to me. Until I wrote all this out I am not sure I fully understood what it meant to me. I just knew I had to do it. This project has carried me through some of my very darkest hours and means a great deal to me. It is a piece of my heart that I am giving to you as thank you for all that you do to ease the pain of others. I hope you enjoy it.”

Rhonda’s quilt is an affirmation for me that what we do for others really does matter. I thank you dear friend. This quilt will hang in our home as a symbol of the love you have for Brandon and for all those who grieve the loss of their child.

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