No charge, no sale

I’ve had a couple of projects on my mind today, projects I haven’t added to my quilt list or spoken much about, but which have been difficult to stop thinking about. One has been brewing behind the scenes for a while, and another I just committed to today.

If they had a common denominator, I would describe them as “compassion projects.” Some projects suggest themselves: baby quilts, marriage quilts, life-change quilts. These are different. I think I’d go as far as to describe them as “love projects” – projects you take on because in your heart, you know you must in order to be the kind of person you want to be.

Neither have names. I’m open to suggestions.

Project #1 belongs to the family of a co-worker of Jeff’s. The husband and wife have been quiet presences in our lives since Jeff’s accident. They’ve sent food our way several times since the accident, and they always have a knack for inviting us over, or sending an actual healthy dinner, when I seem to be at my lowest. During one of our visits to their house, the co-worker’s wife brought out her quilts and, lastly, brought out a bag.

I had a feeling where this was going. It’s not the first time, after all. Sure enough, the bag contained folded and stored fabric, with only a tiny amount made up into a pattern. She smiled and said, “My mother started this quilt top for us before she died. I’ve always meant to get around to finishing it,” with the kind of shrug that spoke eloquently of a full-time job and multiple children.

I contacted her later and offered to finish it – if she’d be interested. She was. The bag had pattern pieces and clearly enough fabric to make the quilt happen, and the project had all the hallmarks of a love project: it needed to happen, it deserved to happen, and I had the facility to make it happen.

She asked me how much, and I told her no charge.

I think there are plenty of crafters in the world who could walk away from such a project. I’m learning the hard way that I’m not one of them. I was raised in an environment that saw these objects as physical, tangible, comforting expressions of love and care; bringing a project like this one to completion has a very Quantum Leap feel: setting right what once went wrong. Better that this quilt sees life than spends another decade in a box, unfinished and unused.

(Hallie has been an amazing help with this project; I’ve been able to rent out a few hours of her time on her sewing machine. She’s handled some of the simple chain-piecing, and in return I’ve helped fund some crafting purchases for her. It will allow me to focus on just the more difficult piecing, and hopefully get this quilt finished more quickly.)

Project #2 will go to a new friend who, in the next 24-48 hours, is going to have one of the most horrific experiences we can have in this lifetime: her significant other, her new and shiny significant other who made this year so delightful for her … will be taken off of life support after a freak accident last week.

It was a brain injury. (Don’t think I didn’t want to punch a wall when I heard those two words.)

Words can’t express how un-fucking-believably unfair this is. Just a few months ago I was sitting across a restaurant table with her; she asked with kindness how I was doing and how Jeff was doing, and now I find myself struggling to find words to give her similar comfort. It could have been me – damned near WAS me – and even after months of proximity to mortality I still have no better answer than a hug, and tears, and “I’m so, so sorry.”

I relayed a message through a mutual friend today: nab some clothing of his. I’d prefer woven cottons, but for a situation like this, I’ll work with whatever I’m given. Just get something that has meaning to you, and I’ll work it up into something physically, tangibly warming for you.

No charge, no sale.

The urge to DO, even though there is nothing to be done, is so strong. I like to think that our humanity is marked by our compassion and care for others, but we are hamstrung by death and dying. We cannot bring back what is lost, so we use what we have – in my case, my hands – to comfort others as best we are able. It’s very rarely enough, but that’s one of humanity’s shining points: we try anyway.

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Comments

Sandi's picture

I've made quilts for babies

I’ve made quilts for babies and for weddings, but the three most fulfilling and, dare I say, enjoyable, quilts were made for the purpose of giving comfort. The first was a foundation pieced heart quilt for an aunt whose husband was in the end stages of lung cancer. Several women in our family are quilters, and we worked on the quilt together. Five minutes after we put the final block on the design wall, my aunt called to say that her husband had passed away. We literally finished stitching the binding in the hotel room before the funeral, and gave it to her immediately. She held it during the funeral; in fact, she didn’t put it down for several hours. She is also a quilter, so a few years later she was one of us stitching blocks to put in a quilt for another aunt fighting cancer. That quilt was cremated with my aunt, and now I’m working on the third, a miniature quilt to cover the box my uncle made for her ashes.

The enjoyment in these quilts came from the time we spent together talking about the people they were being made for. It was a way to celebrate their lives and pour our love and compassion into something that became, literally, a permanent hug. In fact, we called them hug quilts. It’s not an elegant or clever name, but for us the simple honesty fit.

I’m so sorry that your new friend has to go through this, but you know better than anyone what can help, even if it only helps in tiny increments. For both quilts, you’re preserving memories, and it doesn’t get better than that.

jhugart's picture

Knowing the second story

Knowing the second story better, an appropriate name would be musical. Perhaps “Treble Clef” or “Take 5” (or how many clothing items were grabbed).

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