28: A Quilt of Memories

28: A Quilt of Memories

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery

A Quilt of Memories

The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.

~Mark Twain

I called her Mom Mom. She was my grandmother. We were very close, and the more time I spent with her the more I began to notice little things about her. She loved my cousins and me very much and enjoyed spending time with us. She was always ready to help others or to give to those in need. When times grew hard and she would question why things happened, her faith in God never wavered. But the one thing I remember most of all—she was the glue that held the entire family together.

I was five the summer my family found out she had cancer. How was I supposed to know why Mom Mom was getting sicker and sicker and then, all of a sudden, why she was gone? I struggled to understand. She had died just weeks before my birthday. Had I done something wrong? How could I understand it was the cancer that had so quickly taken my grandmother from me, and not something I had done?

I watched the people around me grieve. Some stayed busy. Some cried but then smiled through their tears as a good memory came to mind. My cousin, Caleb, was plagued by nightmares of Mom Mom’s death. And me—I chose to grieve in silence.

After the funeral one day, I remember looking at the family pictures in the hall when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. The door to Mom Mom’s bedroom was open. Someone was inside.

I crept closer and peered through the doorway. My mom was busy pulling Mom Mom’s clothes from the closet. At first, I feared she was going to throw them away. They held so many memories for me—like the blue dress with polka dots that she had always worn to church or the shirt with the flower print that she wore while gardening. Then I noticed my mom pause. She looked over the clothes, her expression thoughtful.

I took a few steps into the room. “What are you doing?”

“I... I was toying with the idea of making some quilts out of Mom Mom’s clothes. I think there’s enough material for five quilts—two for your aunts, one for Sarah, and one for you and one for me.” She looked up then. “Would you like that?”

Tears threatened to fall. I couldn’t find the words to speak, so I simply nodded. I could almost see it now, a patchwork quilt lying on my bed. A security blanket I could pull over my head at night and something I could look at in the daytime that would remind me of Mom Mom.

Memories. That was all I really had of her now. And it was those few memories that I clung to in the years that followed.

First, came my aunts’ quilts, then my cousin Sarah’s. Mine was next—or so I thought.

“It’s been several years since Mom Mom’s death,” my mom said one day, “but Caleb is still having nightmares.”

A lump welled up in my throat. I wasn’t sure I liked where this conversation was going, but I didn’t say anything. I waited, knowing there had to be more.

“I was thinking,” my mom said. “Do you think Caleb would like a quilt—one made from Mom Mom’s clothes?”

I glanced up startled. “I thought you said there was only enough material for five quilts.”

“Well,” my mom let out a deep breath. “I was thinking that I could give up the material for my quilt.”

I stared at the ground. I knew what that quilt meant to my mom. I held my breath. I don’t know whether it was God or not, but I heard a voice, a gentle whisper, that pulled at my heart. I looked up. “Could you make two smaller quilts?”

“You mean something like a lap quilt?”

I could see my mom was thinking about it, so I waited for her to answer.

“You know that might work.”

“Then split my material,” I said. “Give half of it to Caleb.”

I saw the look of shock and confusion on my mom’s face. “I meant to split my material, not yours. I would never do that to you.”

“Split my material,” I repeated firmly. “Please, I want to do this.”

It was late August by the time the quilt was finished. I remember the long hours of sewing and stitching my mom had put into it. As I stared at the finished quilt, I couldn’t help but smile. On every other square there was a memory colorfully stitched into the fabric.

There was a feather stitched on the green square symbolizing the Indian relics Mom Mom had kept in the attic for us to play with. On a pink square there were candies, just like the ones she had kept in the glove compartment of the old gray car. Down in the corner there was a shell stitched on a sky blue square. It reminded me of the scavenger hunts we had on the beach.

As we walked the quilt over to Caleb, a thought crossed my mind. Will it help him with the nightmares? Or will it only make them worse?

I bit my lip as we spread the quilt out for Caleb to see. I wasn’t sure what he thought of it at first. But then as he slowly reached out and touched the material, he smiled fondly. What was he remembering? Perhaps it was the Halloween costumes Mom Mom had made for us. Perhaps he once again saw her bending over her flowers, her hands covered in dirt. Or perhaps memories had taken him back to the aquarium, where he once again touched the horseshoe crab and, with an impish grin, glanced back at Mom Mom.

After a moment, he looked at me. “Are you sure you want me to have this?”

A smile spread across my face. “Yes. It’s yours.”

My aunt told us later the quilt had worked. Caleb’s nightmares were gone.

It was that summer I realized something. It might have been a difficult decision to share my material, but as I listened to my mom and Caleb talk about Mom Mom, something changed inside me. My heart was beginning to heal. I felt joy when I saw Caleb’s excitement. More importantly, I felt peace.

~Meaghan Elizabeth Ward, age 17

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