By Barb Bergquist
As you can see, it’s pretty, bright, and traditional but there’s nothing outstanding, special or unique about it. What makes it stand out is who received it.
I grew up with only one sister, Carrie. We were as different as night and day. She liked to play with dolls while I played in the woods and fields with our brother. Needless to say, we weren’t close at that time, but as I married and had kids, I cherished time spent with my sister. Both of us faced challenges in our thirties, but I have to say that those I faced were nothing compared to those of my sister. Yet despite the bad cards life dealt her, she had a winning attitude and a wonderful sense of humor.
We lived far from each other. She lived in Pennsylvania while I was in Texas so we didn’t see each other much. But when we did, we really enjoyed our visits. One particular trip, I wasn’t aware that I was so stressed and keyed up from the pressures of my job until an hour into our visit when I realized how relaxed I was. That weekend with her, I think we laughed most of the time that we were awake.
Life became more serious though. Carrie had asthma and occasionally had attacks that would require emergency room visits. She was always good about letting me know when they kept her overnight so when she called to tell me she was in the hospital, neither of us were too worried. But then the doctor delivered terrible news. Tests revealed that though she did have asthma, they discovered that she had congestive heart failure. But because of the asthma, the heart disease had gone undetected too long. It was too far advanced. Long story short, she was placed on the heart transplant list, but with a rare blood type, the doctors were concerned that a match would be found in time.
Everyone we knew and talked to covered her with prayers. In the meanwhile, I wanted to give her something to cheer her and remind her that we were all supporting her. And I did what I do – I made her a quilt. While I was keeping her company in the hospital in Pennsylvania, I used some of the time during her tests to visit the local quilt shop. I looked at patterns, at their fabrics and then I checked out their quilt kits. Her style at home was a mix of antiques and good used items. She had no particular color theme but everything suggested “sit down and relax.” I wanted something cheerful yet something that would fit with her style. After a couple walks through the shop to check out everything they had, I decided to make a quilt similar to a sample on display. The quilt pattern I selected required a layer cake for the blocks which would be easy to cut and piece. They had one in yellow and rose, cheery colors, with floral prints that fit her style. I purchased all the fabric I would need to make the whole quilt (except for the batting). The fabric flew home with me the next week and I worked diligently to get the top ready for quilting. I found a longarm quilter who fit me in right away and within a month, I had a completed quilt heading to her in Pennsylvania.
Finally the call came and Carrie headed to the hospital for her new heart. The transplant was successful and as soon as she was cleared to have her own things in her room (i.e., the immediate dangers of infection had passed), she covered with her quilt. It meant so much to her that she kept it with her even when she went back to the hospital for the many tests that follow any transplant. It touched me deeply to see how much that quilt meant to her.
Unfortunately, she only survived a few years after her heart transplant. When we were packing up her household, her youngest daughter and I shed tears as I passed her Mom’s quilt to her. Now that quilt means even more to my niece, Liz. And the memory of that quilt brings a smile to my face whenever I see a picture of it again. It is a happy and a sad smile at the same, but it helps remind me that a quilt often means more than we can comprehend. A quilt truly is fabric stitched together to make love.In memory of Carleen Marie (Hamm) Heckman, Oct. 23, 1955 – Apr. 12, 2014