Spending hours at a time quilting a quilt, gets one to thinking - at least it does for me. I have always had a very busy mind - and so the quiet of quilting is an unending trail of thoughts - connecting people, places and events together in a never ending story. And sometimes a story just needs to be told.
I was given the great opportunity of teaching longarming at a local quilt store. I have always loved teaching - especially women. I taught skiing while living in Calgary and despite the cold temperatures, I loved seeing women accomplish things they never thought they could - even if they had to take two trips up and down the chair lift before I coaxed them off! I even learned to ski backwards so that I could brave the trail ahead of them and talk them through their fears.
Teaching longarming was much the same - except the climate is much more temperate. I often marvelled at the creativity of the people - mostly women, who brought their quilt tops in to learn how to quilt them on a longarm. In most cases we use a computerized program and the machine does the quilting for them. They still have to learn how to load the quilt and learn how to choose just the right pattern for those quilts. Just learning the steps needed to get the program and the machine to run is a challenge. For most people the first visit can be a little overwhelming. But, when their eyes start to sparkle, I can tell that they have caught the bug of watching their quilt "come to life".
One day I had one quilter come in who said she had many, many quilt tops that she wanted quilted and she wanted to get as many as she could done in the next few weeks and months. And so we began what would turn into many appointments. In the end, it was her teaching me a lesson I will not forget.
While letting the machine do its work we often have time to talk - and as each lesson generally takes about four hours - we can cover a lot of territory if we connect. After her first quilt was done with the computer she asked about how she could move the machine to quilt by herself - without the help of the computer. Not many people want to step into that arena. Custom quiltng is something I specialize in - so I was very happy to help her begin - and that's when we really connected. Before we started her next quilt she mentioned she was quite warm and would I mind if she took off her wig. I then understood without even asking, why she had a sense of urgency to get her quilts completed.
She then put on a ball cap and we started in on her next quilt. I stood behind her and helped guide her as she moved the machine, and after a few minutes I let her go by herself - and talked her through her anxiety. Like a first time skier, she gained a little more confidence the longer she worked at it. At the end of the small quilt - she looked up at me and beamed and exclaimed, "I did it". Her smile lit up the room - and in that moment I knew she wasn't thinking of her illness - she was focused on creating a thing of beauty.
I have connected with many people over the years, but for some reason Denise's spirit captured my heart. Little did she know the confidence she gave me to keep moving through what at that time was a very dark period in my life. We ended up doing seven quilts together until one day she received a call while we were quilting from her Doctor who wanted to discuss the results of her recent CT scan. We hugged at the end of the session - and I wished her well. That was the last time I saw her.