Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Gift and a Prayer

Some weeks ago, I went into Katie's room and took her favorite clothes from her dresser drawers and closet. I held each item, thought about its significance, and placed it in a box to send to Dottie A., the mother of Katie's physical therapist.
Over a year ago, my friend Robin (of Grief and Gratitude) brought a precious item to show us: a quilt, made from her son Matthew's treasured t-shirt collection. When I saw it, the tangible reality of it took my breath away; handling it gently, I could see Matthew's tastes, activities, and get to know him a bit - I never had the privilege when he was alive, having met his parents after his passing.
That quilt made me think:  could I do something like that with Katie's clothes? Would I want a quilt like that? Yes, I would, but there was something frightening about offering her clothing to be cut up, even if it was for the purpose of reconstructing them into a keepsake. I couldn't bear the idea of giving her clothing - which was very important to Katie - to a stranger, even if that person was an "expert" in such quilting.
I couldn't do it.
Until I met Dottie. Dottie came with her daughter for a visit to our little town, and she is happens to be a quilter. A very experienced quilter, who has made t-shirt quilts like Robin's - she has even made quilts for her local funeral home to use when they go to pick up a person who has died. Rather than placing the body in a bag (as is often the case), this mortuary brings one of Dottie's hand-made quilts and covers the deceased person with it. It is a gift of tender comfort to families, and has made a difference in their community. People call and ask, "Are you the mortuary that uses the quilts?"
As we were browsing through our town on the day of Dottie's visit, we spent some time in the local quilting shop and talked about the craft. Dottie read my book and decided to make quilts for Katie's Comforters Guild. In the course of our day together, she offered to make a quilt for us, using Katie's clothes. I loved the idea, but it took about a year for me to be ready to let go of Katie's clothes and say, "Yes, please."
Here is the result, which is now on Katie's bed.
But there is more - Dottie is making another quilt for us, out of Katie's other clothes! I am overwhelmed by her generous spirit, and the bond she has formed with our girl. Handling her clothes, seeing the colors and themes has given Dottie a real sense of Katie's presence and spirit. To say that I'm happy and grateful for this fact, and this gift, does not even scratch the surface of my emotions. I will never be able to fully put these feelings into words, other than Thank you, from the deepest place in my heart.
A Prayer by Richard Rohr
"Loving God, we love how you love us. We love how you free us. We love what you have given and created to surround us. Help us to recognize, and to rejoice in, what has been given, even in the midst of what is not given. Help us not to doubt all that you have given us, even when we feel our very real shortcomings. We thank you for the promise and sign of your love in the Eternally Risen Christ, pervading all things in the universe, unbound by any of our categories of logic or theology.
"We offer you ourselves back in return. We offer you our bodies, our little lives, our racing minds and restless hearts into this one wondrous circle of Love that is You. My life is no longer just about me, but it is all about you." - Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 155, day 165
How often Fr. Rohr sums up my feelings, intuitions and hopes in his words! Here, he names what I am thankful for, along with what I am missing; his words name doubts and fears, along with the gifts given through faith in God. There is no hiding, denying or pretending here, but there is fearless acknowledgment of light and darkness.
So, Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of Katie, of Linda and her mother, Dottie. As Fr. Rohr says, "we love what you have given and created to surround us...We thank you for the promise and sign of your love..." This quilt is indeed a sign of that great Love!


M said...

That is wonderful!
A friend who I met on line when both our daughters had cancer is having t-shirt quilts made for her children from her husband's t-shirts. (He recently passed away.) I embroidered 10"x10" squares with a quote for each child to be sewn as a square into each quilt. I would be more than happy to make a square with a special saying or quote to add to the quilt of Katie's clothes. Email me back if you are interested...I can embroider whatever you like...not just words. I would be honored to do so.

Busy Bee Suz said...

What a wonderful gift. This brought tears to my eyes....I too would have a hard time offering up something so personal of my child. But this is just perfect....what a wonderful friend Dottie is.
I too love the idea of the funeral home using quilts as the deceased are transported; so special.

Anonymous said...

Oh Karen, I cried looking at this quilt. I am simultaneously so saddened and thankful that you have it.

Much love,

Elizabeth said...

Oh, Karen. This is such a beautiful post -- I cried for the poignancy and depth of it.

Lynda said...

As a mom of 3 girls who are on either side of age 12, I SMILED when I saw this quilt. My girls would LOVE it as it captures the whimsy, fun, and style of their "demographic". The colors are perfect. Love the fun shapes of the tees, the stripes that make me think of candy and sweet treats and the colors pink (of course) but green for the beautiful NW and outdoorsyness of the girls who grow up here in the PNW. My sister made a quilt of my dad's shirts from his marathons. It is so dear. Thank you for continuing to share your journey.

Kay said...

That is so wonderful. I have often wanted to have a quilt made with my little guy's clothes, but like you, I am wary of the thought of passing them off to anybody to be cut up. Kudos to you for allowing the quilt to be made. And wow, she's an amazing quilter. Looking forward to seeing the second quilt when it's completed. So wishing I knew someone in my area that I could trust who could create one for me.

AnnDeO said...


Kim Andersen said...

Wow Karen ... What a powerful gift. I know several quilters and over the years have noticed that they are always sewing quilts for someone else. It is an unselfish art - Dottie sounds like a very special person.