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Southwestern Sunset Quilt

Five years ago during the holiday season, my mom shared with my brother and me (and our families) that my grandma had been diagnosed with ALS. She had spent several years under the impression she had a mini-stroke, but was simply never getting better. Here’s the story about my grandmother’s life and death and this quilt.

When I was a kid, we went on a few occasions to visit my grandma. She lived a thousand miles away and we were not a vacation/traveling family. So, those handful of trips were pretty special for a kid who had rarely been outside of the Midwest.

 During our visits, I would join my grandma on her daily walks. We often walked in the evening as summertime in the Southwest can be particularly hot. One of my favorite memories was looking for coins on the ground as we walked. Just about every time, we came home with a penny here or a dime there and my grandma always let me keep that change ;) I loved that time together. Since we walked in the evening, we often returned home to a gorgeous southwestern sunset.

My grandma woke up one day and had lost some use of her arm and leg. She was eventually diagnosed as having a mini-stroke and was given very clear rehabilitation orders to regain the mobility she had lost. She followed the prescribed routine, but never got better. After loads and loads of research, guessing and tests, she was finally diagnosed with ALS years later.

She had shared this news with my mom just prior to the holidays and my mom shared it with our family while we were visiting. Everyone in our family made the decision to go and visit her together. Within a week, everyone had sorted out taking off a few days from work, traveling and seeing my grandma. We drafted, configured, sawed, hammered and adjusted our way into helping make her home more accessible and then we all headed home.

The ALS advanced quickly from that point and her health deteriorated rapidly. I speedily put my hands to work making a quilt for her. I had been quilting well under a year. I was in distress thinking about the reason for making this quilt. I needed to get finished and mailed quickly – just in case. To say the least, it’s certainly not the most technically accurate quilt I’ve made. You may see nothing special about this quilt. You may look at it and see tons of flaws.

Here’s what I see: a southwestern sunset.

I see the colors and the shapes and the horizon of the Southwest. I feel the dry heat. I smell the dusty sandy landscape. I see those coins on the ground just waiting for me to scoop them up. To me, it encapsulated the memories of our times together engrained in my head.

I had to mail this quilt to my grandma. She expressed the greatest appreciation through very few words (she was at the point of losing her speech) over the phone. I felt every ounce of thankfulness she had for the quilt. She passed not long after that.

After her death, the quilt ended back up with my mom, who set it aside for me. Five years after being told about her diagnosis, I picked up that quilt while visiting my family this holiday season. We stopped on our drive home to take a picture at a state forest. It couldn’t be more opposite of a southwestern sunset if it tried! But it’s a blending of my background and my home with my grandma’s.

By the way, every single time I see a coin on the ground (which is often), I think of my grandma too :)


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