Hugs Come In Many Forms

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Hello Farmgirl friends!

Grab some kleenex and get in a comfy seat.  Yes… this post is one of those.

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Last March my dear friend Kathleen lost her husband Jerry suddenly and tragically to a brain tumor that had only just been diagnosed.  Hardly time to even grasp the diagnosis and he was gone.  You just can’t put into words the magnitude of grief that we all felt.  He was young, active, incredibly fit, and full of life.  And then he was gone.

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I don’t remember when exactly, but some months after he passed I told Kathleen that if she would ever like to make quilts from his shirts, I would help her with the project.  She told me she would let me know if the time came.  One day she said she thought she might be ready.  We live two hours away from each other so we kept planning dates to get together to get started, things kept coming up, and we kept postponing it.

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I think, in hindsight, there was a reason for that.  Because suddenly the time was RIGHT and I drove to spend a couple days with her as we began the long process of cutting up his shirts, the last pair of blue jeans he had worn on a painting project the day he died, his favorite pajama pants… all the things that should’ve brought so many tears.  In retrospect I don’t remember that either of us really cried… we shed a few tears but there were no horrible shuddering cries like we’d had together in the past.  Mostly we smiled a lot. Thats why I feel the timing was so perfect.

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So the process of the beautiful quilts for her two grown children began.  Cutting shirts up to preserve as much of the fabric as possible is not a quick and easy quest.  We cut, and we cut, and we cut!  The night before I left to come home, we lovingly packed all those sweet cuts of fabric into a box and loaded it in my car.  We planned to get together soon to get started on the sewing.

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I promised Kathleen all I would do until she could come to my house was to cut the fabrics into actual squares and get everything ready to sew together.  And that is what I did.  I cut them all and then I looked at them, and looked at them, and… well you know the rest of the story right? I did what I always do when I start a sewing project; I drew a visual of what I thought would look good.  I put it next to the neat piles of blocks.  I sent a text to Kathleen, “Do you like this layout”?  She did.  And I kept looking at it.

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I couldn’t help myself.  I sewed some of the tiny squares into one block.  I laid all the blocks out and looked at them some more.

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And then… one day I thought “I’m just going to sew ONE row together to see how it looks”.  Which I did.  Then another row, then another row, and another one.  Finally I sent Kathleen a text that said something like; “I’m sorry.  I know I promised you I would wait.  I couldn’t help myself.”  And I sent a quick picture of the rows laid out on the floor.  She called me immediately and we laughed and laughed.  Because she knows me!

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I told her how when I was sewing one day, I suddenly realized I could smell Jerry in his shirts.  That of course was impossible as the clothing had been washed, ironed and starched.  That night I had a vivid dream that Jerry was visiting us and I could smell him… and yes, it was exactly the smell that I thought I had smelled as I was sewing his shirts.  It is absolutely incredible what the brain remembers.  This is a memory that I now love, because it really did feel like he was there.

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Finally our schedules matched up and Kathleen came for a few days.  I laid the one quilt top on the floor and when Kathleen came upstairs and got the first glimpse of it, I was so thankful for the happy tears, happy smile and absolute joy she had in looking at the quilt top.  We stood there and just smiled at each other and saying over and over, “I love it”.

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I won’t go into the process of sewing the other quilt top, quilting both quilts, binding them, adding labels, and washing.  But it was a 3 day process and a lot of work!  But every single moment was absolutely sheer joy.  We talked about every shirt, laughed about the blue jean squares with white paint on them, the plaid pajama pants; the memories.  I think that it was the most special experience for me.  We each sat at our machines across from each other sewing up a storm.

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We sat under the quilts in the living room, hand sewing the binding on.  We talked about Jerry and how we both thought he would get a big kick out of his shirts being cut up for quilts; but the sentimental side of him would’ve loved it.

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We talked about labels for the quilts… what should they say.  We both kept coming back to the fact that the quilts would feel like a deep hug to her kids from their Daddy.

Hugs come in all forms, friends.  And these quilts are a huge and beautiful hug.

(And yes… there is a reason “Mama” and “Momma” are spelled differently on those labels!!)

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Kathleen and I didn’t get a great picture together with the quilts.  This is a quick selfie we took before she drove off.  But I do love this picture.

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The quilts were gifted by Kathleen to her two grown children for Christmas.  She was with her son and his family and was able to gift it to him in person.  I love what he said in the video she texted me; “Mom, are these Dad’s shirts?  Oh how cool!  Did you make this Mom?” over and over.  And the little grand-kids… “Are those Poppie’s shirts”?

I can’t watch it without bawling.

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And Kathleen’s sweet daughter in law sitting with the edge of the quilt in her fingertips… I’m pretty sure I can see the tears ready to brim over in her eyes.

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I absolutely love this picture of Kathleen and her son… snuggled together in the sweetest hug.

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She shipped the other quilt to her daughter since they weren’t together Christmas day.  I’m so thankful for the video of her daughter opening the quilt; I don’t feel comfortable sharing the video but here are a few screen shots of her as she’s opening the package.

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But the sheer gut wrenching pain when she realizes what the quilt is, is hard to watch, but so beautiful too.  Then, with tears choking her words, she went over every block in the quilt, talking about his different shirts and her favorites.

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My favorite part of the video is the very end.  When she has the quilt in her arms, looks at the camera with the sweetest smile on her face and whispers “Thank you”.  I mean… honestly.  I’ve watched it a hundred times.

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I will leave you here, as the tears are falling for me again.  This blog post absolutely does not do justice to the love and emotions that went into these quilts.  Without a doubt it was the favorite project for me in 2019.

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I hope the New Year brings you the tightest of hugs from your loved ones; whatever form it takes.

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Until our gravel roads cross again… so long.

Dori

 

Leave a comment 34 Comments

  1. Maxine says:

    What an absolute beautiful project, post and friend you are. I just love this so much!

  2. Ramona Puckett says:

    Oh my goodness! This is the sweetest gift! And you were right about grabbing the Kleenex! Thank y’all so much for sharing.❤️

  3. Kim Rice says:

    I had already seen some of these shots as you know, and now I’m sitting waiting for my manicure appointment and the tears are falling AGAIN . Happy tears, for the two friends who came together at a very hard time to console and share something so special for the kids. Something they will share with generations after. Jerry is smiling I am sure!
    Thanks for sharing so much Dori
    Xo,
    Kim

  4. Cyndie Gray says:

    Oh my stars, this is the most touching quilting tale I have ever read, seen or heard ♥️ How absolutely precious for those adult kids to have that tangible hug available from their dear dad anytime right at their fingertips. Thank you so very much for sharing it with all of us dear Dori.

  5. Kathleen Frederick says:

    Oh Dori ~ no words except thank you, my dear sweet friend. Great big heart-felt everything, Kathleen

  6. Lori Fresina says:

    Wonderful!!!

  7. Diane Loehr says:

    OMG – sitting at work reading this post crying! I am so sorry for her loss. My husband died almost 4 years ago from a heart condition, along with a brain tumor that they found. In 3 weeks after being diagnosed he went to heaven. Her children are going to love and use these quilts forever. What a beautiful gift to give them. thanks for this lovely post. Diane

  8. Irene says:

    Dori
    You are the most thoughtful and creative person. It was a beautiful post. And definitely needed a Kleenex.

  9. Dee Carter says:

    I loved, loved these pictures of your quilts. I do wish I would have done this with my Daddy’s shirts. But a young mother with a 2 year old and a baby, there wasn’t even time to think of it. I do wish……
    You did a wonderful job. I love the square with the tag to hang the shirt with that you included. Maybe yellow. Well you have seen it many times I’m sure. There was 2 lucky kids there!

    Thank you for sharing .
    Dee Carter

  10. Judith Stout says:

    Dori – Thank you for sharing this story. Indeed many tears were shed. My precious husband left for heaven 4 years ago and I have yet to gather the courage to make quilts for my boys and grandchildren. I haven’t emptied the closets so like Kathleen, I have saved every pajama, camouflage shirts and t shirts the boys had given to him.

    You give me inspiration to begin these projects as I see what the quilts mean to the families. Thank you again for sharing. God Bless You.

  11. Renee says:

    Tears welling, heart overflowing!

  12. Ingrid says:

    Thank you for sharing his story. It has touched my heart deeply. Creativity certainly plays an important part in the healing process. May God continue to show His love to you. Very nicely done.

  13. Edith says:

    What a beautiful story, thank you for sharing with us all…. the quilts are gorgeous and so are you two ladies! I will be going to Road to California’s 25th show next week; I guarantee there will be no lovelier quilts at this show than those you two have created!

    Sincerely,
    Edith

  14. k says:

    I feel badly that Kathleen didn’t get a quilt for herself.

  15. Cindi Johnson says:

    Oh my, you weren’t kidding about the Kleenex. These are the most beautiful quilts in the world. I have never seen one where the seams, pockets and tags were kept as part of the blocks; that you kept the paint, too, well, I like this method very, very much. Apparently Jerry loves it, too, and he was kind enough to stop by to let you know. This… this beautiful coming together as friends for a purpose, is why we quilt.

  16. Donna Kozak says:

    What a beautiful, touching story – I’m still sniffling !

  17. Marlene Capelle says:

    Well I wasn’t going to cry but dang girl. That was beautiful. Thanks.

  18. Denise says:

    How wonderful! I wish I had thought of doing something like that with my Dad’s shirts. Such a great gift! thank you for sharing and now I’ve got to go blow my nose! :)

  19. Bonnie Baker says:

    Oh my Dori! What timing with this wonderful post. Just before reading it I ordered backing for a shirt quilt for my daughter of my husband’s shirts. It took us almost 1 1/2 years to start the cutting process but it’s done and so is the top. Now to get the backing and get it quilted. It is a journey that you are on as you sew, remembering. There were days when I just could not bring myself to sew; the memories brought tears.
    I wish I had made larger bllocks (they are 6″ finished squares and 9 patches) as it would have gone faster, I think.
    You’re a wonderful friend to have helped with this project!

  20. Candace Segar says:

    Dori,

    That was absolutely one of the most beautiful things I have read and looked at. Thank you for sharing and thank you for such a beautiful and creative tribute!

    Candy

  21. Nanette says:

    Now I have tears in my eyes after reading this. What a wonderful gift you gave to your friend in waiting for her to be ready for this project. I may steal your idea and pics for inspiration. Someday will come, and those pics will be my inspiration! Thank you and condolences on the passing of such a close friend. Your farm girl at heart friend, Nanette

  22. Pam says:

    Beautiful story. The quilts are stunning.
    The love miraculously told. Thank you so much for telling the story.

  23. Deb Bosworth says:

    You, my friend are a gift to so many. A shining star in the storm, and a huge ray of sunshine on sunny days too. I can’t even formulate an articulate response right now. Just know my heart was deeply touched.
    Sending love and hugs from the beach!
    Deb

  24. Marilyn says:

    What a beautiful post. The quilts are beautiful. Kathleen’s children will have something they will treasure forever. I can see these beautiful quilts being passed down to future generations. Thank You for sharing this heart warming post. Wishing you and yours a Happy,Healthy and Blessed 2020.
    Marilyn

  25. Ann says:

    What an absolutely beautiful tribute to Jerry and such a blessing to have these unique heartfelt quilts to remember their dad and husband. Hugs and tears back atcha.

  26. Gail Larson says:

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this heart felt treasure. It reflects the power of love, family and friendship. Thank you.❤

  27. Maureen says:

    Ok, you got me. The tears are rolling down my cheeks. How blessed we are with the talent to make such treasures.

    I recently received a quilt top made with feed sacks and something that looks like gauze, possibly curtain lining? Some of the colors of the cornerstones have bled into adjoining fabrics and the workmanship is the best she could do with the materials on hand. I feel it deserves to be completed and plan to name it “my many blessings quilt.” The maker wanted to make something beautiful and warm for her family. I have all the supplies to get it done and am honored to finally finish it.

    Quilting truly makes us all family.

    Big Warm Hugs!

  28. Elizabeth Stenhouse says:

    I have never quilted and had decided to do this same idea for my children after my husband their Dad died.My first attempt was about Dave being a Marine. That didnt materialize after destroying lots of materials then I decided to use parts of his shirts and add photos but truth be told I dont know how to move forward. I need to do 6 quilt hanging instead of quilts as I dont think I have enough for a quilt now .At a total loss how to proceed . It still a beautiful gift and so appreciated for its thoughtfulness.

  29. Pamela says:

    TEARS & INSPIRATION in one post!
    My tears do not even begin to do justice to your beautiful story. Thank you for sharing
    such a wonderful friendship and caring project. You also inspired me to take on this
    shirt quilt for a 2020 project. My husband’s unexpected death from a heart issue was
    a total shock 7 years ago, and each person’s grief journey is different. Sending love to
    all the ladies who shared this. I will start this new journey making quilts for my three sons. It will be the best gift ever. Have wanted to quilt since the last one I made
    was a baby quilt 40 years ago. Newly retired, I now have the time and you gave me the
    inspiration! Blessings to you and Kathleen. Pamela

  30. MS Barb says:

    Beautiful testimony, and beautiful quilts!

  31. Pamela says:

    Dori,
    Would you please pass this note to your friend Kathleen.
    Kathleen, So sorry for the loss of your husband. After reading Dori’s blog, I wanted to
    reach out and thank you. Not only did you show your love for your husband
    and children by making those beautiful quilts, you also inspired another
    widow (ME) to finally start this wonderful project. Thank you.
    Your grief journey is filled with sadness but also LOVE and INSPIRATION.
    Pamela (Massachusetts native & now Kansas farmgirl)

  32. Lisa says:

    What an absolutely beautiful thing to do!

  33. Oh Dori. The first time I tried to read this post, I had finished teaching a class and had errands to run, so I stopped at a local cafe for a bite as it was way past lunch time. I decided to browse a bit while sitting there by myself, and catch up on my reading. I went to read your post. I had to close up my phone because I was about to bawl my eyes out! What a wonderful, touching tribute and gift to those who have lost their loved one. The quilt is a gift, but also the fact that you made it with and for your friend and her children- that alone is another gift. I also believe that our departed loved ones can reach us through dreams, and I bet Jerry is so very grateful to you for doing what you did, and that is why you had the dream. What a touching post, and a testament to great friendship. Hugs to you. ~Nicole, Suburban Farmgirl

  34. Cynthia says:

    This is beautiful what an honor and what a special friend she has in you. This is something she will treasure it always. You can also make a teddy bear with those shirts and clothes for a teddy bear out of his shirts, or a ragdoll if there’s grandchildren or children. My husband had made I’ll call the quilt out of his BTUs which is his army every day fatigues that he doesn’t wear anymore for my son and then he put a sheet behind it so it’s not a true quilt like what you made but still just as precious and it’s warm for my son to sleep with. I was wondering how did you figure out the pattern to do this for because I would be a very basic no knowledge quilter I would love to do that even with my sons clothes he’s 28 years old but I still have some of his baby clothes And school clothes. It would be just the precious keepsake. Please respond I’m a farm girl too but I live in Washington DC now

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