Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mom

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 9.48.13 PMFebruary 27. The day my mom’s address changed to Heaven. We celebrate all of the grandparent’s heavenly birthdays every year. It is our way of being intentional about remembering the significance of their lives interwoven into ours. To acknowledge their legacy.

A few days after her home going, I spoke these words over her casket, which was covered in a quilt she’d sewn. I rested my hand on the worn, recycled fabric stitched with love and spoke a tribute to her life. This is what I want my girls to remember about their grandma.

My mom was the seamstress who crafted this quilt.
(I run my hand along the quilt draped over her casket.)
In my mind’s eye, I can see her seated behind her sewing machine assembling others like it. Many more. My linen closet is evidence of the delight she experienced creating them. Some of your closets are too.
I invite you to muse with me for a moment about the fabric pieces displayed here and let them represent the story of Elaine’s life- her hobbies, passions, skills and relationships.

(As I point to various pieces, I say) Perhaps this piece represents her role as
Mother
Daughter
Sister
Aunt
Wife
Foster Parent
Grandma
Friend
Employee
Neighbor
Property Owner
Seamstress
Crafter
Garage Sale Queen
Homemaker
Pedestrian
Pianist
And most importantly “Christian”

For each piece, there are stories—snapshots of her life. Some we know. Others are tucked away in hidden places that only God perceives. In my stories, I will forever see her on the bench of her Story and Clark piano playing hymns and walking down the sidewalk arms full of garage sale treasures. I will hear her saying “C’mon, Let’s go. Hurry up.” I will smell the oatmeal she cooked for my dad every day for breakfast. I will think of her whenever I eat a piece of pie.

Mom always crafted crazy quilts, sometimes called “wild goose chase” quilts. Crazy quilts use leftover scraps with rough edges and uneven shapes. Like all of us, Elaine’s quilts and life exhibited imperfections. Still, all the pieces of her quilt were attached and securely held together by machine stitching, like all the pieces of Elaine’s story are woven together by the hand of the loving, forgiving God who she committed her life to as a young girl. Just as the backing surrounds the quilt, God’s faithfulness surrounded her life for eighty-nine years and then He took her home to glory.

I recently happened upon this quote by Eliza Calvert Hall comparing our lives to quilt making. While it is not a theological statement, I appreciate the wisdom in her words:

“Did you ever think, Child, how much piecin’ a quilt’s like livin’ a life? You see, you start out with just so much calico; you don’t go to the store and pick it out and buy it, but the neighbors will give you a piece here and a piece there, and you’ll have a piece left every time you cut out a dress, and you take jest what happens to come…. When it comes to the cutting out, why, you’re free to choose your own pattern. You can give the same kind of pieces to two persons, and one’ll make a nine-patch and one’ll make a wild-goose chase, and there’ll be two quilts made out of the same kind of pieces, and jest as different as they can be. And that is jest the way with livin’. The Lord sends us the pieces, but we can cut them out and put them together pretty much to suit ourselves, and there’s a heap more in the cuttin’ out and the sewin’ than there is in the calico.”

Cuttin’ out and sewin’ the story of our lives represents our daily choices that lead to lasting patterns resulting in lifelong consequences. That becomes our legacy. On days like this one, we reflect back on a person’s life that is now connected to ours only through memory. And we are confronted with the reality that someday that will be us—me.
(I point to the casket.)
My shell in the box and others musing introspectively.
With that realization, these questions shape my thinking about the past and the future:

What are my pieces and what stories do they represent?
How is my quilt held together?
Will my quilt be a treasured heirloom for generations to come?

My mom’s quilt, her life and legacy IS a treasured heirloom.
Her children, grandchildren and generations beyond are blessed because of her family loyalty and devotion.
She leaves more than a husband and two daughters. She delighted in her six granddaughters, and an abundance of nieces and nephews all of whom benefitted from her generosity and care.
Her appreciation of music and the hymns of the faith is a gift passed down to my girls who sang to her about the “Mansions over the Hilltop” on the phone just this past week.
She valued Christian education and sacrificed to provide it for her children, her relatives and the other friends.
She inspired us with her courage, perseverance and resiliency even with the crippling effects of debilitating arthritis and repeated strokes as well as the chronic infirmity of congestive heart failure and dementia.
Most importantly, my mother, Elaine’s greatest legacy is her faith—faith in a God who takes the imperfect pieces of our lives and creates an original handiwork, a beautiful image of his glory, when we let Him craft the quilt.

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