Friday, August 29, 2008

Long Over Due

At the 2002 Houston International Quilt Festival I was on a treasure hunt - a hunt for fat quarters. Not just any fat quarters, mind you, they had to be batik. It was my "lean year" -- seems about every other Festival it's either feast or famine, I either have money to spend or I don't. That year I didn't -- well, not much anyway.

But I had enough. Enough to pay for parking each day and enough to stretch out the hunt over several days -- enough to purchase about 20 fat quarters to make what I knew would be a fabulous quilt. And I had fun. For you see, it was just a pure joy to be there. The quilt bug had bit in 2000 and I was still fresh in this craft where everything was new and exciting. So what that I didn't have a shopping budget, it didn't cost much to be there (I'm 'local' and could make the daily commute -- that was before gas prices were so high!), I had a couple of days off work...why not go to simply absorb the excitement of the quilts on display, view the mass array of the vendors, and be lost in the simple joy of "people watching" -- and let's not forget -- the thrill of the hunt. My batik fat quarters! I guess you could say my thoughts that year agreed with the Apostle Paul when he said in Philippians 4:11 "..for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am" I was more than content to be at Festival, I was blessed!

I had a wonderful pattern in mind, Lucky Stars by Terri Atkinson, it was fat quarter friendly and I just knew my new found treasure would light up like the night sky on the background fabric I hoped to be able to purchase soon - a beautiful black batik that was speckled with what appeared to me to be super novas. Yep, the treasure hunt was a huge success, I was overjoyed with my purchases and my plans.

Naturally I was eager to begin this project as soon as I recovered from all the Festival goings...I made a few blocks and was so pleased with myself. I can remember sharing those blocks with a few special friends hoping they could envision the outcome as I could...but alas...things have a way of stealing away that piecing time....all too soon my wonderful treasure hunt had become a dreaded UFO to be packed away in the sewing closet of our tiny apartment -- a closet that was actually the laundry closet with the washer and dryer behind accordion doors in my kitchen dining combo of a room. A closet carefully organized with clear plastic shoe boxes housing all my fat quarter stash, my patterns, my UFO's and my special hopes for "Starry Starry Night" -- what I had dubbed my hopeful quilt.

Time passes by. Life throws some curve balls. Other projects were completed before Starry Starry Night, after all, I was now teaching beginning quilting classes at the local quilt shop and area churches and I had to have class samples. I had already taught Lucky Stars and didn't need another one for show and would just have to wait for it's someday.

As a little girl I grew up with "show and tell" -- well, at least that's what I call it now. My mom was a gifted seamstress and made all my sister's and my clothing, plus her own. I can remember holiday weekends such as this (Labor Day, 4th of July, New Year's) when the local Cloth World would have their big sales. We were always up bright and early ready to go pattern and fabric shopping with mom. I can only imagine that she and dad saved up for these big events -- that and the big sale days at the local mall where we did purchase a few "store bought" clothes. Regardless of which type of sale when we got home everything was spread out on the couch for our "show and tell" for when daddy got home. We'd either be showing off the pretty fabric and the future pattern, or modeling the dresses we found in the "bargain basement" at the Foley's Department Store. Didn't matter, it was all met with a round of applause, lots of ohhs and ahhs from daddy. We felt like princesses.

I never out grew "show and tell" - my husband learned the proper responses when I'd come home from a shopping trip for myself or our two boys...and he was always sincere too. I guess he knew how important it was for me that my efforts met his approval.

As I entered the world of quilting and discovered quilt guilds this love of show and tell followed me -- that's actually my why of being involved in local guilds...but I digress and get ahead of my story as it wasn't until April 2004 until I joined my first guild. And yes, for the record, show and tell is my favorite part of the evening!

Back it up almost a year after my treasure hunt for batik fat quarters. I am eagerly awaiting the approaching Houston International Quilt Festival 2003, this year with a little more spending money! It's still weeks away when I get a phone call from my dad. It's not good news.

Seems my dad, who had never been sick a day in his life, was feeling poorly. He'd gone to the doctor and they did some blood work. He was having a biopsy on his liver "just to check". The news wasn't good and a colonoscopy was scheduled. I went to be with my parents some 250 miles north of where I a matter of weeks our lives were changed forever. Dad had colon cancer. And it had already gone into his liver.

I was back and forth to my parents. My sister, who lived in Florida at the time, arranged to come stay several weeks. I was working full-time, had a senior and freshman in high school and trying to maintain some sense of normality. I turned to my therapy of quilting. And I prayed. First I made a prayer quilt for my dad...I'll share more about prayer quilts another time, but I've photographed the several that I've made throughout the past 10 years or so in my Webshots. And I prayed.

I also pulled out my "Starry Starry Night". I needed to piece. Time to finish this one. It was my prayer time. My prayers for daddy. As I pieced, I prayed.

In November of that year (2003) I decided that I needed to give my notice at my job and be more available to assist my mom with my dad's care. My last day at work would be right before the Thanksgiving holiday. My husband, two sons, and I went for a quick one day trip to see mom and dad on Thanksgiving (500 mile round trip). He wasn't strong enough for us to stay long, his surgery and cancer was weakening him. My sister was scheduled to return to Florida the following week, so that's when I was going to come back to be of help, I could stay longer now since I was no longer gainfully employed.

In the meantime, I needed to continue my therapy of sewing. My quilt of choice, back to "Starry Starry Night". As I pieced, I prayed, and I received peace. My have the top completed by the time I went to see dad so I would have some "show and tell".

It's almost been 5 years, but I can still remember sewing on those last pieces on the quilt top. I had taken all the parts that were suppose to be sashing and made a scrappy border -- I just didn't like the way the colors in the pattern were breaking up my night-time sky effect in the body of the quilt, so I changed the pattern to my liking. I had just pronounced it good and had laid it on the couch to take a photo when the phone rang. My dad was passing.

I didn't make it home in time to say goodbye. Dad never saw my last show and tell. Brings tears to my eyes as I think of it now, yet in my heart of hearts, no, deep in my soul, yes, deep within my very spirit, I know my dad was whisked into the gates of splendor and welcomed by his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who said "well done my good and faithful servant, enter in to the joy of thy salvation".

Why today, why am I writing this? Two reasons. One, I attended a funeral today of another dear man, a true servant of our God and King. He was a co-worker of mine 5 years ago when my dad passed. A good man. A true solider in the Lord's Army as his pastor stated today. His illness wasn't an 8 week battle with cancer like my dad's, but instead a longer trial with Lou Gehrig's Disease. He fought the battle well. He finished the race on Tuesday morning of this week and today friends gathered with his family to say our farewells. For you see, if you are a true believer in Jesus, you know it's not really good bye, it's just "see you soon" -- it's a temporary separation. That's our hope. To one day be reunited in heaven spending eternity with our God and Savior.

Returning home from this celebration of a dear saint's life I was reminded of my own dad's homecoming, and the unquilted "Starry Starry Night" -- for you see, even though I finished piecing it the day dad went to heaven, I haven't been able to quilt it. First it was pure emotions, naturally, and well, added to that I didn't have a longarm yet -- but my dad shared that dream with me. The last time I saw him he was encouraging me to purchase a longarm and start my dream. Two years later, on the anniversary date of his homecoming, I had an open house to celebrate my own longarm and the new home that God provided for me to set up a studio (and for my family to dwell- it's not all about the studio, but that's where I spend most of my time). No more working out of the laundry closet, I now had an entire room to call my own. I chose the date of dad's passing as a tribute to him believing in me. That was 2005.

I have to take a deep breath here because I am publicly making a commitment to finally finish the quilt that was to be my show and tell for dad. This weekend I will be loading "Starry Starry Night" on my quilting frame and praying as I quilt that the good Lord will comfort the family who is temporarily separated from their loved one through this process we call death. I will be praying for God to guide my fingers as I guide my longarm...not that the quilting would be anything over the top or show quality, but that He would be honored in my thank offering for the gifts He has given me...the gift of life, love, and His promise of eternity. I know the journey of "quilting through" will not be without emotion...but it's long over due and I intend to do my best
- for His glory.


jhwolf said...

I'm sure your Dad has been very proud of your accomplishments and was probably standing beside you at your open house. I will look forward to seeing this beautiful quilt quilted.

Your post reminds me of my Dad in his last years. He lived with us for the last 2 years of his life and encouraged me and helped finance my purchase of my first embroidery machine. He too always gave me praise for the quilts I made and looked forward to the next. He will have been gone 12 years in October and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of him and sometimes feel his presence.

Judy in MO

Cathy said...

What a beautiful tribute to your dad! It reminded me of mine too. He was 58 when he passed in 1978 and I was pregnant with my 2nd son. I made lots of trips back/forth from Miami Fl to Butler PA. Dad was always a cheerleader to me no matter what I was doing. The night he died I was not there but I had a dream and woke with such peace that I knew it was a vision from God. Even with my dil's breast cancer I don't fear death knowing that Jesus is there to welcome us when we know Him personally. I love reading your blog Karen!

Shelley said...

Thanks for sharing your feelings and thoughts with us Karen. Sometimes the peace you feel when you venture into an emotional journey is welll worth the effort. Your Dad will be cheering you on - I believe in guardian angels in this world and he is most assuredly one of yours.