Once upon a time, not so very long ago (let’s say it was even at the beginning of this month), a very good friend asked me to help her make a quilt.
“I really need help,” she said. “This has to be perfect; I want to hand quilt it, and I’ve never done that before.”
“This quilt,” she said, “Is for my husband’s best friend’s daughter. She was diagnosed just the other day with cancer. She had a swelling in her pelvis and they found a big tumour. It’s really bad. I want to make her a quilt to have with her when she goes for chemo. She’s 12.”
And I agreed to help; and I tried not to cry.
So off she went to find some quilting magazines; and with the perfect pattern found fat quarters galore in a lovely shop in the States. Her husband and her daughter helped her pick out the bright, wild and crazy colours. There was even hot pink leopard print!
I checked in with her a little later, and she had started cutting. She was being very diligent to get the pieces just right. She had taken books out of the library to reference for batting, seaming, pressing and binding. When she finished sewing, it was beautiful.
“I’m ready to start marking it,” she said. “I want hearts all over it, but I don’t know what to do.”
I came over Tuesday evening (I had to be at home during the day) and brought an unfinished quilt, two quilting frames, and all the rest of the markers, pins, needles and thread we could need. She had the quilt all spread out on the floor; the purple flannel backing, the flat cotton batting, and the top. It would be good. We discussed the matter of the hearts.
Did she want them in each rectangle? Did she want them uniform? Two different sizes? In all directions, or all lined up in a row? Overlapping?
I told her to cut out some hearts from brown paper, and place them on the quilt, to see what pattern she liked. I told her to draw a rectangle on paper, and fill it with hearts, and then she would know what she liked best. And then I pulled out my unfinished quilt (that was supposed to have been done last summer and I can now justify the procrastination) and had a quilting lesson. Sitting cross-legged on her floor, covered by a baby quilt, wielding red thread and a needle.
She decided on free-hand hearts (with longer points) in a gentle arc from one corner of the quilt to the other. She handed me the pencil. “You start,” she said.
We covered the quilt with hearts; but I think she drew the first one.
I promised to come back on Thursday night, (after babysitting my niece, taking Elena to swimming and making supper) and I got into the truck and I cried. I told myself that I shouldn’t cry, that I didn’t know this girl, and that she would be fine. I can’t let this get in my head; I need some emotional distance. Her family is handling this, she has lots of people who love her. I said a few prayers. I still cried.
We quilted some on Thursday, using pale pink thread. “She’s going to love it,” I said, “She’ll trace the hearts with her finger, and she’ll think of all of you.”
I got an email yesterday from my friend, with a photo attachment. And I cried some more. A calm, sweet, smiling picture of a little girl in a hospital bed covered by a quilt. I called my friend to thank her.
“It’s all good news!” she said. “The tumour is shrinking, visibly, and her white blood count jumped back up to a good level the day after we gave her the quilt. She’s on track to continue her chemo, and then she’ll have surgery.” She paused. “She still has a really long way to go. But it’s been all good news.”
Yes, it is good. It is good be strong and it’s good to love. It’s good to pray, and it’s good to cry. It’s good to know how to quilt, and it’s good to give. And it’s very, very good to be covered in hearts.