Our first connection came with an embroidered birth announcement for the birth of my first son. Neatly stitched and framed, the unexpected wall hanging quickly found a place on the wall near the crib.
Later, the mail carried a holiday package the other direction with aprons for her two older daughters. She said the girls loved them. They tied them tight and went into the kitchen to help their mother in the kitchen.
The reality of jobs in different states restricted our time together, but my husband’s late sister and I shared common interests. She had three daughters and one son. I had three sons and one daughter plus two step-sons. We both liked needlework, worried over our children and knew how to whip up a meal in a minute.
Unlike me, she worked from early to late each day as a homemaker, determined that details and necessary work would be done. That path she dug through the deep snow from her house to the street just weeks after she had had a C-section still impresses me. I don’t do yard work — let alone snow removal. But she did. Her yard always reflected the colors of the rainbow with a variety of flowers.
We both puzzled over our growing children, especially as they grew older and the harsh realities of life crossed their paths. In the weeks and months after our child entered the hospital for the first time with a confused brain needing medical intervention, she wrote and spoke of her child’s equally troubling mental confusion at another time. The family gene had reared its ugly head and destroyed the perfect picture we each had of our families. If we could not be perfect, we would share the misery and thus help each other.
Subsequent visits found our conversations touching on recovery and the return to an interrupted life and we rejoiced together.
Once, she enthusiastically gave me a household tip she had just discovered for folding towels in thirds to make them fit the linen closet. Her husband shook his head in disbelief at her pleasure in the tip. Sure in the greater scheme of things it made little impact, but I knew the reality of that “Ahhh, yes!” moment and used the tip myself.
Years after her mother died, like every other seamstress she realized she never would finish all the projects on her “to do” list. Hearing about my interest in quilting and she pulled out a couple large boxes of fabric, scraps and unfinished objects (UFOs) from her late mother’s UFOs and passed them along to me. Inside the box I discovered a nearly finished quilt . I finished it and returned it to her to pass along to her son. My daughter pulled out pieced blocks and made a banner. The rest of the UFOs may wait for another seamstress.
We swapped stories about cross stitch over her stiching on a Christmas stocking. I studied it in awe. I enjoy the hobby, but her skill far outshone mine.
Mindful of her admission to hospice earlier this year, we visited when we could. During our spring visit we picked up a meal for both her and her husband As my husband plated the food, she prepared to eat by laying a dish towel over her blouse and commented, “After all the adult bibs I have made for patients, I do not have any now.” Her recently wheelchair bound husband acknowledged the irony with a rueful grin as he spread his own dish towel over his shirt. She had no time or energy to remedy that situation now. Her final illnesses drained her of the energy that had once driven her to create a warm, welcoming home.
Miles later, back home, I pulled out fabric, studied patterns on the Internet and wished I had a copy of the pattern she said she had used. Making the best of what I had, I sewed and sent them a couple adult bibs, confident that hers would have been far superior.
Last week her need for them ceased. We took our final trip to see her and extended our sympathy to her family. Her story has ended but her impact on all of us continues in more ways than she could ever imagine.
Joan Hershberger is a staff writer for the El Dorado News Times. She can be reached at email@example.com