Today is going to be a little different than usual. No fun tutorial, exciting pattern release, or witty ideas. I think it’s time to share a little bit of my heart, what’s been going on in my life, and what I’ve been working on in my personal time. If nothing else, I want to help anyone who has been through something hard. If you’re in a similar situation to me I’m hoping that you’ll find hope, or spark an idea—or, at the very least, know that you’re not alone.
I haven’t talked about it much—if at all—but this past year has been the most difficult of my life. My mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year and despite an incredible effort and numerous treatments, we lost her this April.
Grieving is a different beast than I thought it would be. It’s not wailing on the floor or being sad all the time. It’s a sort of creeping numbness that sneaks in when you think that you might just be doing alright.
Then it turns into something else.
…and then something else.
…and then something else.
I remember during my mom’s treatments, my husband encouraged me to feel deeply whatever feelings came along. It was a time of deep sadness and struggle with my mom, but it was also a great time of excitement and expectation for our daughter’s birth. Those two opposite extremes clashed over and over again—and still do today. But my husband’s advice is the most valuable piece of advice that I have received during this dreadful journey, and I’m still trying to follow it. So, today I am sharing a personal project of mine: I plan to not have a plan. I plan to design as these feelings crash over me, be it ugly, beautiful, sad, or silly. I don’t plan on sharing everything, but I want to encourage those of you who have suffered loss in your lives.
It doesn’t really matter to me if anyone reads this post, or listens to me blubber through my presentation of this piece at the Quilt Guild tomorrow night. This isn’t for them. This is mine. I’ve never been good with words—this is how I feel that I can communicate the racing thoughts, the anxiety, the confusion, and (Lord willing) someday clarity.
If you take nothing else from this post, take this: find something that helps you communicate the tangled mess that’s inside. It won’t fix everything, but something about feeling heard is healing.
First, I thought I’d sew.
But sewing wasn’t as therapeutic as I thought. It was a nice way to get away from everything and think, and it reminded me of the sweet gift my mother and I shared. But it didn’t give me the comfort I was seeking.
So I thought I’d design.
There was a great tension relieved in designing to communicate my feelings. It didn’t matter what the message was or even if it looked good—it was a simple drawing in my sketch book. No commitment, just scribbles on a page. Those pages and pages of drawings brought me to tears, but they also made a lot of sense to me.
Then I thought I’d sew those designs.
So here I am, staying up late at night, sewing and sewing until the world makes a little more sense.
This is the beginning of what might be a lifelong series…or it could be the only piece in the series—I’m not sure. I don’t know where this is headed, but it feels good to be heard, to be understood, and to just get it out there in a way that makes sense to me.
This first quilt, which I have titled Vacuum was inspired by the words of my mother’s pastor at her funeral service. He said that her death would leave those who loved her most with a vacuum in their life. And it’s completely true. As I’ve been making this, the meaning has evolved somewhat, but the feeling has remained the same.
It reminded me of how each various part of my life looks stable and good and orderly, but this one giant missing piece affects all the rest—even if they look fine on their own. The quilt as whole is changed.
It reminded me that something vital was missing. Something that once made me whole has been lost.
It reminded me of the wonderful gift of sewing and quilting that my mother gave to me. All the precious memories we shared.
It reminded me that, somehow, just as this quilt is beautiful despite its brokenness, that life can still have beauty.
“Grief starts to become indulgent, and it doesn’t serve anyone, and it’s painful. But if you transform it into remembrance, then you’re magnifying the person you lost and also giving something of that person to other people, so they can experience something of that person.”