How we all agonize about what to do with our loved one’s clothing after he/she has died! We all seem to have different ways of handling the situation. And guess what? No one way is the perfect solution for everybody. We all grieve differently, and we all approach the difficult task of mourning in our own personal way. No one should tell us what to do. We have to do what our heart says; and each heart speaks its own message. I know this too well after losing my two oldest children; 21 year old Denis and 19 year old Peggy, in the same car accident.
Recently I had the pleasure of having dinner with a group of dear friends. Having met at a local support group after each of us losing a child, we could all laugh together and we could all cry together. Our bonding was strong. We understood the tremendous void in each of our families.
The highlight of the evening was marked by our host appearing in the middle of the living room carrying a quilt in his arms. Holding it up for us all to see, we were overcome with envy! From the clothing he had saved when his twenty-two year old son had died seven years ago, Jerry had made a Love Quilt. He had cut 30 twelve-inch squares, (10 x 10 when finished) from favorite garments, to tell the story of Matthew’s life. Each ten inch square shared a precious memory with us. We all sat there, dumbstruck, wondering why we, too, hadn’t thought up this wonderful idea. Although we had all saved clothing mementos of our children, none of us had the assortment of clothes to work with that Jerry had. How we yearned to have the kind of memories Jerry had saved! And the funny thing was that Jerry had never planned this. The idea had taken root years after Matthew had died.
Beginning with Matthew’s bedspread—a simple boyish, bright red quilted-type cotton cover, Jerry used this as the backing. Then he proceeded to cut 12 inch square patches from each of the garments, lining each piece with a plain cotton fabric. Arranging them in five patches across, and six patches down, he used a sewing machine to create the quilting stitches across each piece and then trimmed the white quilt with a red, white, and blue binding all around.
Matthew’s favorite phys-ed tee shirts from school days emblazoned with school names, his cub scout shirt and the badges he earned, his pajama top buttoned down the middle and its sleeves folded neatly, potholders from his frog collection, his cowboy pants complete with fringe—reminders of his third birthday party, his precious DeMolay shirt proudly proclaiming hours of service work, his well worn college and sports shirts shouting for his teams, and favorite jeans with stories of their own—all echoed Matthew’s life story. But the crowning glory of the quilt was Matthew’s chef’s hat and shirt! How proud he was to be called chef at the Plaza Hotel in New York City and how proud his Dad was to include those patches in this handmade quilt. He even fashioned the four corners of the quilt using Matthew’s chef’s clothing and the toggles from the jacket.
Do you see what love can do to remember? Don’t be afraid to try new ideas. Jerry never sewed a stitch in his life and look what he accomplished. We are still green with envy. And even though we never met Matthew we feel we know him, thanks to the Love Quilt and a father’s love.
Written in memory of
Matthew Good, son of Elaine and Jerry Good