Posted by Bev, an appreciative support group participant
Jim and I were stuck like glue for seventeen years. We made it through the deaths of my father, his mother, then my mother, and celebrated several family weddings and births. In other words, we were a regular couple. Only it felt different. He was everything I wasn’t and visa versa. Together we made a pretty good whole. That’s why, when he suddenly died in January, I was lost. My past, present, and future were intertwined with him. It took me a long time to accept the fact that he was gone.
I had the help of JF&CS, and a weekly group led by Barbara Sternfield, to let me know that I was not alone in my feelings and that there were others on whom I could lean, and return the shoulder when needed. After the group ended I cleaned out Jim’s storage unit. I was surprised by what I found: pictures of him as a boy, models he had put together, assorted papers he chose to save, etc. Each item told me even more about the man I knew so well.
I’m a quilter and knew I was going to make a memorial quilt to honor him. I had saved all his cotton shirts when I brought his things to the laundromat to clean before giving them away, but they represented just the outside part of him. On the back of the quilt I wanted to show all the things that made him into the man I loved so much. For his childhood I found fabrics to represent his model making, his mother’s basement nursery school, the two puppies he had, boy scouts, baseball. For his older years I found fabrics representing instruments and music scores, glee club, teaching swimming at camp, working on Project Concern. For college years: his love of politics and government, books, writing, theater (both acting and directing), and his later years of teaching, astronomy, traveling, law school, love, our first Christmas, our gardens.
I also put in bright colors because that’s what he taught me. “Brights” is a quilting term that describes colorful and dominant fabrics. They are what your eye is drawn to when looking at a finished product, while neutrals provide your eyes with a place to rest. They are usually the most beautiful part of the whole. Often when a quilt is too dull a bright will be introduced to give it life. My quilts were pretty drab and conservative before I knew him. He loved the “brights” and now they’re in all my quilts. They had to be in his, too.
So this is the finished quilt. I call it, “Jim: Inside and Out.” I sleep with the front, his “outside” covering me with warmth and stability, and the “inside,” the back of the quilt, facing up so that I wake to see the complexity that was his life. He may no longer be by my side but he still has the ability to warm and comfort me.