The Quilt I Can’t Finish

Last week I mentioned that I was writing my blog from Emerald Isle, North Carolina and that I was on our annual family beach trip.  I’m home now, but see this?

This happened. I had an emergency room visit.  For me, this time.  Usually it’s Bill that frequents the ER with vertigo and kidney stones.  The universe had obviously decided that it was now my turn. 

It all started the day after we arrived.  The garbage disposal wasn’t working correctly.  A quick phone call to the management company resulted in a tech coming out to fix it.  And while he did manage to get the garbage disposal back to normal, what I didn’t realize was that whatever he did to the pipes and lines caused the toilet to overflow in my bathroom.  A bit later when I had to go, I hurried into the bathroom and when my flip-flops hit the water, I fell hard.  My knee and ankle were hurt, and I jarred my neck.  Some of you know that I’ve been having neck issues for a while and have been diagnosed with a pinch nerve in my neck.  I had that under control until I took the spill in the bathroom. 

My daughter-in-law, Anna, immediately started icing my ankle, which really helped.  But the pinched nerve brought on the migraine from hell, which is what put me in the Carteret County Hospital Emergency Room.  A CAT scan showed that I didn’t hit my head but was told that I needed to follow up with my doctor as soon as I returned home.  Which I did.  The doctor brushed aside the concern I had about my neck and head and x-rayed my ankle, which was swollen to a pretty impressive size by this time.  Long story short, I have a re-pinched the nerve in my neck, chipped my ankle bone, and have fractured my heel bone. 

And now I’m in this…

For six weeks.  Lovely.  As long as I’m out of this thing by my quilt retreat, I can deal.

And thus, has ended my summer adventures as I settle into fall and the Christmas season.  So, let’s close the book on Summer 2019 and talk about something else. 

The rest of this blog is even a bit more personal and painful than the injuries mentioned above. Those “owies,” as my granddaughters called them, will eventually heal and become a distant memory, only re-surfacing when I get a twinge of pain here and there in my foot or neck.  I face those with as much humor as I can, because wailing and complaining really doesn’t do you or those you are with any good.  However, there are some wounds that don’t heal and those usually involve your heart and your emotions.  And while yes, in time, that type of pain lessens, it never completely goes away. 

See this quilt?  I know that is a bit of a rough transition but stay with me.  I promise it will all tie back in together.  If I’m remember correctly, this is the second block of the month club that Hancock Fabrics put out.  It is definitely post-2000.  This was the second large quilt I had worked on.  I love the colors – the yellow and blue combination is one of my favorite color ways.  It took me a year to assemble the blocks – we received one block a month.  My friend, Ellen, taught the class and she showed us how to quilt each block separately and then put the whole thing together.  Not quite the quilt-as-you-go method, but pretty close.  And you can tell I didn’t know a thing about batting, because the kind I used is that white, ultra-fluffy, polyester kind.  I quilted a little here and there, squeezing in the time as I could.  The year 2001 drifted into 2002, 2003, and 2004.  The blocks, thread, and batting accompanied me to the beach, to bleachers as I watched my son play baseball, to dance class as I waited for my daughter.  I worked on it here and there, a little along the way.  I wasn’t in any particular hurry to finish it.  By this time, I had completely fallen in love with hand applique and had another quilt in the works using that technique.

Then in 2005, the bottom dropped out of my safe, little secure world.  My father hadn’t felt well and thought he had gallstones.  He went to have himself checked out during the summer of that year.  My brother called me while I was on my way home from a Florida vacation. 

“Are you driving?”  he asked.


“We got the report from the doctor.  Dad has pancreatic cancer.”


My life changed in an instant.  I couldn’t breathe.  I couldn’t stop crying, ether.

For the ensuing months, my life became a blur of dealing with students and classes and teachers during the day and trips to Burlington in the afternoons, evenings, and weekends – from July through September.  At some point, I left my bag with the blue and yellow quilt in the car, so it went with me through all of the trips to Mom’s and Dad’s house, Alamance Regional Hospital, and finally the Hospice Home in Burlington.  When Dad rested or didn’t need me, I would pull it out, quilt, and pray for the miracle that didn’t come.  Eventually, that quilt stayed with me through all the family coming in, the visitation, and the funeral.  Then it went back in the bag and back home with me to Jamestown.  The bag went into a closet.

And I haven’t been able to touch it since.  September 21, 2019 marked 14 years since I’ve worked on that quilt.  I’ve tried to.  I really have.  But the emotions that so overwhelmed me then are just as tangible today as they were on September 21, 2005.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to put another stitch in it.  Ellen had a similar situation with a quilt she was in the middle of making when her brother passed away.  She was able to finish it, but it was years later. I haven’t reached that place yet. 

I’m not too sure I ever will.

I think some of us quilters piece and quilt so much of our feelings into our art.  It gives us something to do as we emotionally work through trying situations and keeps our hands busy as we storm the gates of heaven with our prayers.  But then again, maybe just the sheer thought of sitting completely still and coming face-to-face with our fears may keep needle and thread weaving its way through yards and yards of fabric without a stop.  We can deal with the uncertainties that life throws us – just don’t ask us to give it our full attention or we’ll go crazy.  Allow us to cling to what makes us feel productive and creative while we’re processing the worst situations.

This is what I mean when I say quilting keeps me sane.  During life’s awful moments, it’s been a touchstone.  I can sew or quilt and pray prayers of desperation, plead for miracles, and remind myself that God has been faithful and that He always will be. 

Do you have one of these quilts somewhere in your UFOs?  Is there one you can’t finish – not because it’s too hard or you’ve just grown to dislike it – but because somewhere in the tangle of fabric and thread and batting there are just too many raw emotions involved?  Did you keep it?  Did you give it away for someone else to finish?  Or is it like this poor yellow and blue thing of mine – stuck in a bag in the back of a closet?  I’d really like to know how you handled it.

Until next week, Quilt with Passion!

Dad and I — about 1961

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam

6 replies on “The Quilt I Can’t Finish”

Wow, you look just like your Dad! I’d already lost some of my mojo before my Mom passed last year. I’m getting it back bit by bit, but I can’t pinpoint any one quilt.

Oh, your poor neck and foot! I hope you get some time to do some binge watching while you stitch and not have to go to the office. I’ll keep you in good thoughts, girlfriend. 😉

You look so much like your dad. I’m sorry he’s not here in the present but he’s here in spirit. Someday we will all be reunited with the ones we love. You should finish the quilt. Maybe if you finished the quilt, it could be donated to a cancer patient at a local hospital. It might bring comfort to a patient or family who is suffering through something similar to what you experienced and the recipient will know that they are not alone in their suffering. Maybe then you will by able to see the quilt in a positive light knowing that it brought some joy into another persons life.

I have the same quilt too! I just ran across some of the blocks! Bless You! Sorry about the neck, heel and ankle! Hugs to you!

Please accept my sincere condolences on the passing of your father. This quilt has a lot of your emotions tied up in it — I don’t blame you a bit for not having the courage to work on it. I imagine just seeing it brings all of the flood of emotion back as though it all happened yesterday. If you have enough of it finished to make a small wall hanging, I think I’d do that with it and not worry about making the full quilt. The wall hanging could be a memorial to your father and you could put the photo of you and your dad in the center with the blocks (of love) surrounding you. Take care of that neck and ankle (and heel!) Neck pain is such a horrible thing to bear. Healing hugs to you… Tehachap

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