Thursday, 3 March 2011

In memory of her ... loose threads sewn up ...

Something shocking and beautiful and wonderful happened to me today. I came home from work and Dr B mentioned in passing that there was a package waiting for me - I assumed this meant I had to go to the post office and pick something up later in the week. Then as I went into the kitchen I came across a small box and saw it came from Deborah Stockdale in Ireland. (Deborah is the artist who made "journey to peace" for the WCC and which is part of our stiching peace exhibition - it is stunning, but more of that soon!)

So I unwrapped the small box and inside found the stunning quilt you can see in the photo here - actually it is much more stunning than this mobile phone photo taken late in the evening allows for. I have already christened this piece "In memory of her ..."
Nine years ago I went to a quilting shop with a friend and bought the material you can see in this quilt. I had never made a quilt in my life (I still have not) but I spent money - quite alot of money - buying the lovely material. I knew I needed rainbow colours for the idea I had and I felt fairly sure I ought to be able to design something that would just about work and make a Huguenot cross out of patchwork, the rainbow colours being the symbol of God's covenant.
On Mondays in early 2002 I would go round to my friend's house and make desultory attempts to sew - mainly she would sew and I would chat and admire her creations. Her name was Rowena Reamonn, she was a brilliant artist in patchwork, embroidery and quilting.
That winter and early spring she was preparing to die, giving away quilting books, handing over things and fabrics, asking me to take her funeral. And as part of that I picked up needle and thread while she was alive, but really I just listened and laughed and heard her anger. She was about 18 months older than I am now.
I took her funeral on my first official day of work at the World Council of Churches ... as we hung the Stitching Peace exhibition I realised that the last time quilts had hung in the Centre was probably at her funeral. The gospel text she chose was the woman who anoints Jesus with perfume - of whom the Christ says "in memory of her ..." (pace Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza)
For Stitching Peace we needed fabric and an activity for the launch so I searched out material from the bottom of the deep drawers in my grandparent's bookcase. I had no real idea what was still there but I knew there was part of the fabric and quilt we had pinned together at Rowena's funeral and that I had a lot of material from abandoned dress-making and other projects. I bundled it all together and with Deborah discovered that part of it had even begun to be sewn together by me. Deborah took these bits back to Ireland with her - I didn't realise she had discovered the whole quilt I had actually cut out and stuffed in a bag!
I felt extraordinarily blessed today, to see something that I had imagined almost a decade ago, looking just like I had hoped, yet more so, more beautiful, more finished and so vivid.

I have been weeping too much in recent months and weeks, the reasons are too boring to mention - other people's pain is so often like that: depression, rage, incompression, grief, lack of self worth ... yet tonight I shed tears of joy and incomprehension. Feeling utterly blessed that someone I hardly know could do something so wonderfully generous as give her time for me and do this. It is SO lovely and something I shall treasure always and today I realised powerfully that this was exactly the right time for it to be finished.
Threads are being tied up.
In memory of her ...
Gratitude, colour, thread and tears ...
And for me an experience of pure grace.


janetlees said...

just wonderful - love you

roberta said...

Very moving. Beautiful quilt image and memories of a very beautiful women. Every Blessing Jane for sharing this.


Mrs. Goodneedle said...

This is exactly that, grace!

I knew Rowena when my family lived in Geneva from 1996-1999. We were friends through both patchwork connections and through the International School as both my son and hers were the same age. I don't know how I happened to stumble upon this post today but I am so glad that I did, I keep a photo of Rowena on my desk to remind me of life's blessings and fragility. Peace to you, and gratitude!

Aimee Moiso said...

Lovely, Jane. After my mom died of cancer (11 years ago this summer), one of her close friends who is also a quilter made quilts for my sister and me out of our mother's clothes. Hugs.