I have found that making a quilt for someone bereaved or who is seriously ill is more a gift to myself than to the recipient. Yes, quilts and grieving go together. I want to do something, and say something that is meaningful and sincere, but am unsure. Sewing a quilt says what is in my heart. As a school counsellor, I made quilts for families who lost their child unexpectedly. Those losses are unthinkable to any parent. The next quilt was made for a longtime neighbor and friend. Our daughters have been friends since grade school and have been witness to each other’s wedding vows. When this beautiful and passionate young woman was diagnosed with cancer four years ago, I did not know what to do or say. Of course, I made a quilt for each of them.
A quilt is an iconic symbol of comfort and can feel like being wrapped in another pair of arms. And quilters by nature are a generous and compassionate group of people. In times of great loss, the quilting community rallies and sends out the call for donations. Some recent Canadian examples were the Alberta Flood (2013), Fort Mac Murray Fires (2016) and the Quilts for Broncos (2018). Another way to sew your grief is to make a quilt from the shirts of your beloved. I met a wonderful woman last weekend who was widowed 9 months ago who was finishing a quilt for her son’s birthday. She cut and sewed material from his father’s shirts to make a ‘man’s shirt quilt’. Such a powerful healing journey, as she stitched these pieces from shirts she had washed and ironed over many years. And such a tangible memorial for her adult son in receiving such a loving tribute to his father.
On a national level, there is a drive to provide quilts for to injured or ill military members, past and present. At this time, Canadian has over 45, 000 injured vertans. To date, Quilts of Valor-Canada has presented close to 12,000 quilts. Their goal is to donate 20,000 quilts by the year 2020. There is even an ongoing international campaign to make a million pillowcases for foster children. And so, I believe that, yes, a quilt makes everything better!