Hugs Come In Many Forms

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Grab some kleenex and get in a comfy seat.  Yes... this post is one of those.

Last March my dear friend Kathleen lost her husband Jerry suddenly and tragically to a brain tumor that had only just been diagnosed.  Hardly time to even grasp the diagnosis and he was gone.  You just can't put into words the magnitude of grief that we all felt.  He was young, active, incredibly fit, and full of life.  And then he was gone.
I don't remember when exactly, but some months after he passed I told Kathleen that if she would ever like to make quilts from his shirts, I would help her with the project.  She told me she would let me know if the time came.  One day she said she thought she might be ready.  We live two hours away from each other so we kept planning dates to get together to get started, things kept coming up, and we kept postponing it.

I think, in hindsight, there was a reason for that.  Because suddenly the time was RIGHT and I drove to spend a couple days with her as we began the long process of cutting up his shirts, the last pair of blue jeans he had worn on a painting project the day he died, his favorite pajama pants... all the things that should've brought so many tears.  In retrospect I don't remember that either of us really cried... we shed a few tears but there were no horrible shuddering cries like we'd had together in the past.  Mostly we smiled a lot. Thats why I feel the timing was so perfect.
So the process of the beautiful quilts for her two grown children began.  Cutting shirts up to preserve as much of the fabric as possible is not a quick and easy quest.  We cut, and we cut, and we cut!  The night before I left to come home, we lovingly packed all those sweet cuts of fabric into a box and loaded it in my car.  We planned to get together soon to get started on the sewing.

I promised Kathleen all I would do until she could come to my house was to cut the fabrics into actual squares and get everything ready to sew together.  And that is what I did.  I cut them all and then I looked at them, and looked at them, and... well you know the rest of the story right? I did what I always do when I start a sewing project; I drew a visual of what I thought would look good.  I put it next to the neat piles of blocks.  I sent a text to Kathleen, "Do you like this layout"?  She did.  And I kept looking at it.

I couldn't help myself.  I sewed some of the tiny squares into one block.  I laid all the blocks out and looked at them some more.

And then... one day I thought "I'm just going to sew ONE row together to see how it looks".  Which I did.  Then another row, then another row, and another one.  Finally I sent Kathleen a text that said something like; "I'm sorry.  I know I promised you I would wait.  I couldn't help myself."  And I sent a quick picture of the rows laid out on the floor.  She called me immediately and we laughed and laughed.  Because she knows me!
I told her how when I was sewing one day, I suddenly realized I could smell Jerry in his shirts.  That of course was impossible as the clothing had been washed, ironed and starched.  That night I had a vivid dream that Jerry was visiting us and I could smell him... and yes, it was exactly the smell that I thought I had smelled as I was sewing his shirts.  It is absolutely incredible what the brain remembers.  This is a memory that I now love, because it really did feel like he was there.

Finally our schedules matched up and Kathleen came for a few days.  I laid the one quilt top on the floor and when Kathleen came upstairs and got the first glimpse of it, I was so thankful for the happy tears, happy smile and absolute joy she had in looking at the quilt top.  We stood there and just smiled at each other and saying over and over, "I love it".


I won't go into the process of sewing the other quilt top, quilting both quilts, binding them, adding labels, and washing.  But it was a 3 day process and a lot of work!  But every single moment was absolutely sheer joy.  We talked about every shirt, laughed about the blue jean squares with white paint on them, the plaid pajama pants; the memories.  I think that it was the most special experience for me.  We each sat at our machines across from each other sewing up a storm.

We sat under the quilts in the living room, hand sewing the binding on.  We talked about Jerry and how we both thought he would get a big kick out of his shirts being cut up for quilts; but the sentimental side of him would've loved it.

We talked about labels for the quilts... what should they say.  We both kept coming back to the fact that the quilts would feel like a deep hug to her kids from their Daddy.
Hugs come in all forms, friends.  And these quilts are a huge and beautiful hug.
(And yes... there is a reason "Mama" and "Momma" are spelled differently on those labels!!)

Kathleen and I didn't get a great picture together with the quilts.  This is a quick selfie we took before she drove off.  But I do love this picture.

The quilts were gifted by Kathleen to her two grown children for Christmas.  She was with her son and his family and was able to gift it to him in person.  I love what he said in the video she texted me; "Mom, are these Dad's shirts?  Oh how cool!  Did you make this Mom?" over and over.  And the little grand-kids... "Are those Poppie's shirts"?
I can't watch it without bawling.

And Kathleen's sweet daughter in law sitting with the edge of the quilt in her fingertips... I'm pretty sure I can see the tears ready to brim over in her eyes.

I absolutely love this picture of Kathleen and her son... snuggled together in the sweetest hug.

She shipped the other quilt to her daughter since they weren't together Christmas day.  I'm so thankful for the video of her daughter opening the quilt; I don't feel comfortable sharing the video but here are a few screen shots of her as she's opening the package.

But the sheer gut wrenching pain when she realizes what the quilt is, is hard to watch, but so beautiful too.  Then, with tears choking her words, she went over every block in the quilt, talking about his different shirts and her favorites.

My favorite part of the video is the very end.  When she has the quilt in her arms, looks at the camera with the sweetest smile on her face and whispers "Thank you".  I mean... honestly.  I've watched it a hundred times.

I will leave you here, as the tears are falling for me again.  This blog post absolutely does not do justice to the love and emotions that went into these quilts.  Without a doubt it was the favorite project for me in 2019.

I hope the New Year brings you the tightest of hugs from your loved ones; whatever form it takes.


  1. Such a loving thing to do all around. I read this with great interest, and, yes, where are my tissues?

  2. Lovely story, well done, certainly made me cry ❤️

  3. Oh Dori - my heart overflows at your post! I have sorted, and sorted my mom's cloths, but have yet to make something of them - especially as I will need a type of stabilizer for many of the fabrics. I can just imagine the big hug these children were given through these beautiful quilts - so, so special. What treasures!!

  4. So beautiful, Dorie! ♥️ The live of family and dear friends are all represented in those quilts. I know they will be treasured. Truly a labor of love.

  5. Oh my stars...So touching and what a wonderful experience for two close friends to share. I'm a mushpot, so of course I am crying right along with you.

  6. I am not a crier...Which is so odd since I am sensitive and in tune with what people are feeling. I tell you that because if my eyes well up in tears, you know that I have been deeply touched and right now, tears are brimming up in my eyes, threatening to spill over on my face. Thank you for sharing all of this....I am glad to know you...

  7. Wonderful story, thanks for sharing! My first thought was, "doesn't your friend want a quilt for herself"? Maybe just a table runner if there isn't enough material left. So glad she was able to help stitch some of her love into them also.

  8. Oh Dori this is such a beautiful post. Kathleen is sew lucky to have you help her and share in all Jerry's memories. These types of quilts are always sew precious to make.
    Love and Hugs

  9. oh my goodness... tears, tears, tears. LOVE this!!! You are such a beautiful soul to share your gifts and talents with a dear friend and her family, like this!! I love how the patches done...with tags and buttons and seams, showing. It really brings the quilt(s) to life. :)

  10. Dori, what a beautiful heart you have...What a comfort those quilts brought to the family. Beautiful and touching post.