A dear friend and fellow teacher and church member asked me to make memory quilts from her parents’ clothes. This commission was particularly loaded because I knew some of the back story and had seen at least some of the struggle this family faced.
The father had been through a long struggle with Lewy Body Dementia. As a side note, March is Lewy Body Dementia Awareness Month. For more information about this condition and the fight it involves, click here. Having seen the family go alongside the father in this fight, I knew it had taken a huge emotional toll. The mother’s passing was most unexpected. She was a huge figure in the Agnes Scott College community, and friends who I knew from different circles knew of her simply because they were Agnes Scott alumni. For more information on this fantastic college, click here. So yes, the family and community lost two special souls in a short amount of time.
So when my friend brought in three bags of sorted clothes to make three lap quilts, I knew this commission would need to be perfect. Before beginning this quilt, like many of my memory quilts for lost loved ones, I said my memory quilt prayer and then got to work.
The colors were chosen as an homage to both parents, green for dad and purple for mom. Of course, there are numerous shades of green and purple, so we had to get the right one.
After that was the layout and switching around anything that my friend wanted to shift.
Then I sent one picture of one of the pinned quilts and then a last picture of them all ready and folded up. I like to save the final reveal for in-person. We met up, and I was thrilled at how happy she was. It’s a strange hobby when tears mean a job well done.
She sent me follow up pictures of the quilts as they were gifted to her siblings and one of herself underneath her own quilt. Overall, it was a gratifying commission, and I’m thankful to have helped give a wonderful family some degree of comfort. Love you, Abby!
For the most part, my quilting hobby is fun, especially the t-shirt quilt commissions. I love the look on someone’s face (usually a sneaky mom who smuggled shirts to me) when they see those shirts made into a quilt their senior will take to college. But sometimes the quilt commissions can take a more somber tone. Sometimes I’m tasked with a commission to make a memory quilt from clothes from a loved one that has passed on. I’ve made memory quilts from clothes of both deceased younger and older folks, and it’s a profound task, preserving memories of someone else’s loved one.
My first t-shirt quilts were from my father’s clothes, and they showed me the healing power of a memory quilt. My father died unexpectedly, and I had a lot of anger mixed in with my grief. It was an anger that I didn’t know what to do with, and I felt powerless to confront. And then my grandmother told me I’d be making four t-shirt quilts for myself, her, and my two other sisters. And it was in the making of these that I found a degree of peace and finally felt like I could say goodbye. Clothes are probably the hardest part of a loved one to reliquish. We remember what they looked like in them, which ones they favored, and they even smell like that person for a long time afterwards.
I was nervous when I made a memory quilt for someone outside of my own family. It was for a young man who had passed away from cancer. I remember gulping a bit as I finished up the design process and was ready to make those initial cuts into the shirts. Again, the idea of preserving those memories for someone else is daunting. So I prayed. I placed my hand on the bags of clothes and prayed for guidance, peace for the grieving family, and the ability to do that person’s memory justice. Whenever I have a quilt that has a similar back story, I take the time to pray beforehand, asking for the same guidance.
I thought I would share that prayer with you all in case you find yourself faced with a similar challenge. Feel free to use, adjust, or change as needed.
“Heavenly Father, I pray your guidance as I make this quilt. Please guide my hands that I may do justice to this person’s memory. May this quilt bring their family comfort in their grief and remind them of more joyful times. In your name I pray, amen.”