Friday, May 23, 2008

Sisters of the Quilt

Oh, had I a golden Thread
And needle so fine
I've weave a magic strand
Of rainbow design
Of rainbow design.

In it I'd weave the bravery
Of women giving birth,
In it I would weave the innocence
Of children over all the earth,
Children of all earth.

Far over the waters
I'd reach my magic band
Through foreign cities,
To every single land,
To every land.

Show my brothers and sisters
My rainbow design,
Bind up this sorry world
With hand and heart and mind,
Hand and heart and mind.

Far over the waters
I'd reach my magic band
To every human being
So they would understand,
So they'd understand.

Words and music by Pete Seeger, 1958

Sisters, Oregon, May 22, 2008.
A room in the home of Jan Sims is filled with lively chatter over whirring sewing machines. Colorful strips of fabric, mostly in the patriotic colors of red, white and blue, are being cut, pieced together, sewn and ironed. This group of women, and they are among many across the country, are Hero Quilters.

The American Hero Quilts began in the Seattle area in 2004 as a way to say thanks and provide a bit of comfort for Iraq war soldiers recovering from battle injuries. The movement has spread nationally. Sisters, Oregon, known for it's scenic beauty, artistic community and exquisite quilting was a natural fit for the women who volunteer their time, and most often their money, to make the Hero Quilts. During the weekly sessions, there isn't talk of politics, the war or other issues that get in the way of the work. It's all about the quilts and the thoughts of who will receive them.

One-hundred-four quilts have been donated in the 18 months the group has been active. Another 30 or so await the computerized quilting process and the women keep on cutting and sewing. Their reward is knowing that the veterans who receive them find comfort and a tribute to their sacrifice.

The group received a letter recently from a mother of a wounded son.

Dear American Hero Quilt Ladies,
My name is Ranae Simmons. Last week at the Warrior Transition Battalion you
presented my son with a hero quilt. I am writing to tell you about my son and
that quilt. My son did not want to come and get his quilt. His Sgt. said they
had to make it an order that he come down to the common room. He was one of
the last to receive a quilt as you were packing up. Perhaps you remember him,
he is the the very quiet man with haunted eyes. On Friday he had rather
extensive surgery with several bone grafts and skin grafts. My husband and I
were stunned when he appeared at the hospital with his quilt. He has not
shown an interest in anything or anyone since he was injured. The last thing
he asked before they wheeled him away was that we keep his quilt with us and
make sure nothing happened to it. When he woke up his first words to us were
not how glad he was to see us, it was "do you have my quilt?" He asked that it
was immediately put on him, he said he was cold.

I have been thinking a lot about that quilt and my son. We thought we had lost
him emotionally and we despaired of ever getting him back. He was not connecting
with anyone in our family, not even his nephew who he has adored since our little
guy was born. This quilt seems to give him comfort, warmth and is the first sign
that maybe our son will come back to us. This quilt is clearly something that
you spent a great deal of time on. I just wanted to let you know that to us,
this quilt is hope and to our son it is priceless.

Thank you so much for the honor you have done to my son. From our family, thank
you for helping bring our son back to us.

Ranae Simmons.

This is Memorial Day weekend, the traditional first weekend of summer. Despite gas prices the traffic over the Cascades on Highway 20 is heavy. People going on with their lives, to have fun, recreate, enjoy the freedoms that are essentially taken for granted. For the veterans who are dealing with their injuries in hospitals and in their homes, the concept of freedom and it's cost cannot be displaced by a long weekend of camping and fishing. The best result is that a beautiful quilt from the Hero Quilters will begin to say "thank you." Hearts and hands can bind up and bring hope to a sorry world to those who saw their duty to make the world a better place to live.


Anonymous said...

well done jay. awesome. this screams of your community.
-rob kerr

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jay, for this beautiful tribute to our group.
We greatly appreciate your time and talent!!!

Kathey Heaney said...

Jay, what a wonderful start on our project for Hero Quilters.
Having just met you last Thursday I was hesitating to ask but after spending the afternoon on your blog I feel like I do know you well enough to ask you for a copy of the Moving On CD's. I love to listen to music when I'm quilting and I love alot of those songs and the artists you have chosen. Thanks so much for offering them. Kathey Heaney