A Warming Gift
When I began missing a dear friend of ours with cancer from several consecutive Sunday worship services, I decided I wanted to make a quilt for him. But there was a problem. This friend is a man. We’ll call him Bob. Man-friendly fabrics are hard to find. Then I remembered that the room off their kitchen is decorated with what I would call an African safari theme. And his recliner is in this room. There. Problem solved. I thought, “I’ll just buy some safari animal prints the next time I’m at a quilt shop.” Now we had another problem. Apparently the folks who make fabric possible think that giraffes, lions, zebras, and monkeys are only pastel cartoons. Months went by and I stopped at other quilt shops as I had opportunity. In over a year’s time, I found three fabrics that would have worked, but probably not together.
I decided to turn to the folks at TreadleOn. This is a kindhearted group of people who are passionate about bringing treadle and handcrank sewing machines back into use demonstrating much compassion for others. I posted an email to the list titled something like “Stash Reduction Opportunity or Donations Wanted for Comfort Quilt.” In it I described my futile search and requested that anyone who would like to pass on their “manly African safari fabrics” contact me for my address.
The response was wonderful! I gave out my address several times over the next few days. Then the fabrics started filling our mailbox. One member offered some pieces that had actually come from Africa. Another member sent a package all the way from Australia!
By the time all the packages arrived, I was about two weeks away from the due date of our fourth child. I felt tired all the time and it was very difficult to stay awake at nap time to work on this quilt (or anything else!). I think I managed it once or twice. Then, surprise! Our baby was born a week early. Another friend with whom we worship offered to help with the quilt top, but she was out of town a few times, and then had minor surgery. Between all that and me with a new baby, I never got the fabric to her. After a while, I asked my Mom if she had time to work on it (the plan was for her to quilt it anyway). I gave her what I had cut out and the rest of the fabrics. I described my “vision” for the pattern to her. The plan was to make the finished, washed project available for family and friends to sign their well wishes on the muslin pieces. Since we were working with so many different prints of different sizes, we went with something simple. I suggested “four-patches made from prints and muslin, other prints as alternating blocks, and the lion cub panel as close to center as it could be, but off-center in an artsy way would be fun too.”
Mom finished it up in record time. The thread she used coordinated perfectly. It had black, gold, and natural colors in it, just like a tiger’s coloring. My friend from worship offered to turn and hand-stitch the binding. I asked her and her husband to take the quilt and the pens and yet another friend to let people know in which classroom in the church building it was available for those who loved Bob to sign.
When the binding was done and we felt everyone who wanted to had been given an opportunity to sign the quilt, I brought it home to take pictures. In the muslin squares of the border, I added the names, cities, and states of the folks who donated the fabric.
The friend who turned the binding and her husband met me and our new baby at Bob’s house. We took the quilt in, set it on an ottoman, and visited for a bit. Bob’s wife rocked my precious bundle. There was much joking and joyfulness. Finally, Bob asked about it. “What? Oh, that.” I teased, “It’s a little something for you.” We opened it up on his lap. He was nearly overwhelmed. He said, “This is much more than a quilt.”
Although the temperature in the room was comfortable to me, Bob kept saying how hot he was. To have the heavy quilt on his lap was too much. He declared he would like to have it on his and his wife’s bed and it would keep them nice and warm at night.
He asked me to take pictures of the quilt with his phone so he could look at it on his TV. (He may have known a tad bit more about technology than me, but I played along like I knew how he could do that.) He was very drawn to the block with the bright red/orange/yellow sky behind the animal silhouettes so I made sure to include a picture of that one. I handed his phone back to him and to my surprise he tapped the screen a few times and the pictures appeared on the tv! He flicked through them, pausing for us to read aloud to him several of the well wishes I had captured. We took turns, sometimes reading them in unison with much emotion in our voices. When the aforementioned block came up, the colors were quite brilliant. There was some debate about it being a sunset or sunrise. I said it was a sunset. Someone asked how I knew. I pointed toward it and said, “It’s in the west.” “How do you know that’s west?” I pointed north, which happened to be the wall to the right of the TV, and said, “Because that’s north!” “Oh yeah, I guess it is.” I was inwardly rejoicing that I had managed to match wits with these veteran jokers.
Thankfully, Bob was feeling well enough to make it to worship service a few weeks later. He said the quilt was on his bed and yes, it kept him warm enough but no, he didn’t have to open a window. This left me feeling content, knowing that I had used my God-given talents to see this project through and that I was part of a gift that was daily reminding a hurting and dieing man he was loved and prayed for by many.
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Praise the Lord, Bob entered eternal rest and joy on Sunday, May 26, 2013. Among many treasured mementoes, the family displayed Bob’s comfort quilt at his memorial service.
This declaration of the Apostle Paul to his younger friend, Timothy, was printed in the program for Bob’s memorial service. It reminds me of Bob’s character. I hope one day it will remind others of mine:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
2 Timothy 4:7-8
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I shared this story with Bob's wife before posting it here. She asked me to include the following note of gratitude:
I send my heartfelt gratitude to those from other states and even other countries who contributed. What a wonderful testimony of caring and giving. He loved the quilt and was so touched you'd do all that for him.
Our love to all of you. Fay and Family