Amy Flinn, one of my readers left this tremendously moving comment to my post on the quilters of Gee’s Bend. We got into an e mail conversation and she’s shared with me a photo of the Grandfather Quilt (left below) she made from strips of her father’s clothing after he died in a car accident. I can’t think of any better way to make sense of tragedy than to wrap yourself up physically and spiritually in the warmth of a loved one who’s gone:
In 1994, my Daddy died an a terrible traffic accident. I carried all his clothes home with me to give away to people who needed them, but far enough away from my parents’ home that Mom wouldn’t see someone in them.
He was a self-made man, a bare-footed farm boy who became a lawyer. He still hunted, fished and gardened and many of his “work” clothes were not fit to even be given away. So I kept the jeans and chambray and coveralls.
I finally started to cut strips and made what we call “the grandfather quilt.” It is a healing quilt. Making it was my therapy and now it is used to cure homesickness at camp or the first semester of college as well as colds and the flu. When you wrap yourself up in the grandfather quilt, it is like you are wrapped in his arms. And you go to sleep and get well.
I found the Gees Bend quilters while looking for other quilts made of work clothes. I was captured. Arlonzia Pettway is quoted(on the Auburn site) describing one quilt made by Missouri Pettway, “Mama say, ‘I going to take his work clothes, shape them into a quilt to remember him, and cover up under it for love.'”
I will add that quote to the label on the grandfather quilt when it comes home from its latest trip. Thanks for more on the quilts and quilters. They feel like family to me.