Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day Quilt

Memorial Day QuiltLast year on May 26th my nephew Alex drowned in a lake near his home. Seven years old and profoundly autistic, he was a charming master of escape and even with all the precautions his parents had taken to prevent such a tragedy he slipped away and by the time neighbors and family could locate him it was too late.

It was a time our family will always remember and we think of Alex often, especially at family get-togethers where we notice his absence more than ever. For my sister Memorial Day has a special significance in the son she's lost.

I haven't written about it until now because there was a lot of misrepresentation in our local media. People who didn't know the family heard incomplete stories in the news and assumed the worst about the care Alex had received--some editorials were quick to judge without having all the facts. I didn't want to be involved in the noise and didn't want to cause more pain for my sister and her family by calling more attention to the things some people were saying.

But here it is, a year later, and something wonderful has happened. Some friends of ours who form a quilting group called my sister to ask if they could take some of Alex's clothes to make a quilt. Alex's clothes have sat in his bedroom untouched and my sister was relieved to find something to do with them without having to throw them away--a thing she'd dreaded.

Memorial Day QuiltA few weeks ago, just in time for Memorial Day, they presented her with the quilt. It's lap-sized, not quite big enough for a bed, but big enough for wrapping up on a cold, lonely day and each block of the quilt is made from one of Alex's outfits.

With all the different fabrics they used it was difficult to patch together--some fabrics stretching more than others--but they stabilized it by quilting diagonally across the squares and turning the seams inside out then they appliquéd one of Alex's flannel pajama sets onto the middle, with "Alex" quilted near the little feet.

Memorial Day QuiltEach square and detail are a comfort. For example, there are squares made from his fleecy bunny sleepers--Alex had a habit of stripping his pajamas off at night so my sister had rigged up a system of safety pinning through the zipper pulls to keep her little boy in his clothes at night--and a couple of the fuzzy squares have a safety pin lovingly pinned in the corner as a reminder.

Some of the squares are made with the clothing tags still attached reading "0-3 months." Some are made from the bib and straps of corduroy overalls, some with little cargo pockets that store one of Alex's socks that he refused to keep on his feet but would flip back and forth in his hands rhythmically. Each block represents a different point of time in Alex's life and stands as a tribute not only to a family's love but to the kindness of others who saw a grieving mother and did the best thing they knew how to do.

When the women presented the quilt to my sister she had tears as she snuggled into it. I was so touched by their thoughtfulness and ability to use their talents to comfort someone else that I had to share the story of the quilt--it will always be a little piece of Alex that his family can hold forever.

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104 comments:

Sam said...

What a sad story, my Mum works with profoundly autistic children and so knows that they can be quite the little escape artists!

Having said that - what a lovely story too, that quilt looks beautiful - what a generous and loving way to celebrate someone's life and leave them with a fabulous memento.

Missy said...

What a beautiful gift. That is such a lovely way to remember Alex.

nik said...

As I sit here wiping away the tears, I am also remembering a quilt/s that my Grandmother made my sister and I many years ago before she past away. Sadly mine had gotten lost in a move but we still have my sisters who died a few years later at the age of 15. 13 years later, we still have that quilt and we remember 2 people that we love and miss very much.

What a sad story here but what a awesome gift to have as well. I especially love how it was made of his clothes. Thank you for sharing and bringing forth other memories of loved ones as well.

DanaB said...

What a precious, priceless gift--such lovely ladies!

Lots of hugs to you and yours...I can't imagine.

~~

The Source said...

So sorry about the loss of your precious nephew.
What a sweet and thoughtful gift. Something for your sister to treasure for always.

mannequin said...

I cannot imagine the loss, only fear such a loss.
I also could not imagine throwing my precious childs' clothes away so how absolutely wonderful to have that to snuggle with. As a mom, I am sure she can remember when he wore each and every piece of clothing.

katef - www.picklebums.com said...

That is just a beautiful story of such a lovely gift that I am sure is already a treasure! With sadness for your loss...

Chris said...

Beautiful story. It's nice to hear of kindness in the world. So sorry for your and your family's loss.

Anonymous said...

That is absolutely beautiful and loving! Gen-IL Homesteader

lightening said...

What a lovely idea and SUCH a precious gift. :)

MoziEsmé said...

What a beautiful quilt - I love how it tells a life story.

Sandy said...

what a beautiful gift. I'm sure it will give her so much comfort in the years to come.

jeanie said...

What a wonderful gift. How sad the circumstances that led to it having to be created, but how full of love to have had it created.

Amanda said...

My son works as a classroom assistant in a school for autistic children, and comes home with such tales of their escapades. How wonderful that there were such caring people there for your sister, and what a lovely idea. It will mean so much to your sister and her family for many years to come.

Amy G. said...

What a thoughtful gift and graceful way to make some of his belongings a part of forever. Whatever the media babbled about, I am sure they did the best they could by Alex, and I hope that time preserves only the good memories.

Tammy said...

Prayers for your sister and her family. What an awful tragedy!

The quilt is such a wonderful, thoughtful gift!

Amber M. said...

What a wonderful, loving thing to do. Bravo to your quilting ladies!

Give my love to Alex's mommy.

Blessed said...

This is a completely awesome gift.

I'm so sorry for the loss of Alex and even more sorry for the grief the family had to deal with from people who didn't know what they were talking about afterwards. I'm thankful that your sister now has a tangible and positive memory of her little boy and people who were there for her during her grief.

Lizzie said...

Oh, my heart has just swelled - this is so awesome. Not the least of which because my son is autistic. Nor because on New Year's Eve 2006, one of my son's old classmates (he has always been a part of a special needs classroom within a mainstream school) had a very similar tragedy hit their family. Of five children, 3 were on the spectrum and the youngest (the younger brother of my son's classmate) wandered off and drowned in a nearby river. He was 5 years old. Because the family was from a less affluent area, the media cut them to ribbons - not caring that they'd lost another son to cancer a few years prior.

So yes, I think this is such a wonderful gift and my thoughts are with your sister. What lovely friends!

Cheers,
Lizzie
http://lizzieshome.com
http://whisperofgrace.blogspot.com (encouragement and resources for new Christians)

Summer said...

What a beautiful gift.

I'm so sorry for your sisters loss.

~TAMY 3 Sides of Crazy~ said...

What a sweet tribute to Alex. Hopefully it tells your sister that not everyone pays attention to the media ad its misrepresentations as these women obviously understood. My prayers are with you and your family as you heal over the loss of Alex and celebrate his life.

jbs said...

truly touching. as a new mother, i cannot fathom loosing my little girl- you sister must be a very strong lady.

Amy said...

I am so sorry for your family's loss. I can't imagine losing a child. That is the most beautiful quilt and a wonderful memory for your sister to be able to hold in her hands.

Flea said...

That's an incredibly touching gift. All the time, thought and creativity which went into it! Your sister is doubly blessed - to have had Alex for as long as she did, and to have a group of friends like these.

Laurie said...

I was s special ed teacher in the States. I have worked with autistic children. What a moving tribute. I was touched and inspired by your story. Thanks for sharing a very personal part of your life with your readers.

detroit dog said...

A profoundly thoughtful gift; comforting.

As for the media...it's terrible (and certainly unethical) to turn a personal tragedy into mean and useless fodder for a lynch mob mentality.

Michelle (The Beartwinsmom) said...

What a beautiful gift to always be wrapped in Alex's memory and love.

I'm so sorry for your and your sister's loss. I'm a mom of an autistic child, and this breaks my heart so much. It would break my heart if it were a "neurotypical" child, but even more since of the autism connection.

Hugs for you.

reprehriestless warillever said...

Thank you for sharing this story.

tjhirst said...

While it must have been difficult for you to share such a tender close-to-home post, the way in which you have written it adds an important "piece" to the story of his life.

By expressing that the quilt was "big enough for wrapping up on a cold, lonely day" this symbolism was clear: when we lose someone it is not in the public eye that we grieve, but often on those days when we are seemingly all alone.

Thank you for your words. God bless your family.

Adventures In Babywearing said...

Oh my goodness, the tears are falling. What a beautiful tribute to Alex. I am so sorry that your family had to suffer such a loss and tragic circumstances on top of it.

Steph

imadramamama said...

Oh my goodness, what a treasure. Thank you so much for sharing something so personal.

Mayberry said...

I'm so sorry for your family's loss. What an amazing gift the quilt is. I am blown away by how much thought and care went into it.

Jen said...

Thank you for sharing about the memory quilt. As a parent of a child who is affected by Autism, I understand very well the pain of people's ignorance and knee-jerk judgements and critical comments. Because of my daughter, I have learned never to judge another parent for any reason, period. To do so is like accessing an entire situation by looking through the front door and imagining you have the full picture. I'm so sorry for the loss of your nephew. May God comfort you all.

MommyTime said...

What a beautiful gesture of comfort. Thank you for sharing such a great example of the kindness people can show.

Shannon said...

I'm so sorry for your sister's loss. Thank you for sharing her story.

I can't imagine a more thoughtful gift than a blanket full of his memories.

Amanda said...

Great post. What a sweet group of ladies to make a quilt for your sister. What a precious gift. Thanks for sharing.

Allison said...

That is such a special gift - I cannot imagine how much it means to Alex's mom. That's a real labor of love. That is what they say in times of need (or grief) - just do what you know how to do (like quilt) and the love and comfort will come through. So beautiful. Thank you for sharing this story.

MystyDawn said...

What a wonderful way to remember Alex. It is beautiful

Mia said...

That is such a beautiful and touching gesture of love. It takes a lot of courage to open up and share about a personal loss. Thank you.

tarable said...

I am sorry for your family's tragedy, especially in light of the media. Some reporters are well-meaning, and some are not, but grieving families should not have to deal with any. My sister's son is also autistic and sometimes I think it is a miracle he has made it to age 8 - they've had many scary experiences, despite doing everything they can. Thank goodness for loving, understanding people who have given your sister this beautiful, sweet quilt. I hope it gives her some small measure of comfort.

Cocoa said...

The quilt is so lovely! It's a wonderful treasure I'm sure will be cherished. It's so nice to hear of people who not only think about doing something kind but actually go and do it.

I can only imagine the heartache and pain that accompanies such a tragedy. And then to have that compounded by unwanted media attention...

Tiff said...

that story brought tears to my eyes. It hits home with me since my little guy is autistic and one day escaped the house and ran across the street. It scared me so bad the thought of losing my son. I can't imagine how she feels. What a precious gift she has been given. Her son will live on in her heart!

Marie N. said...

What a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing the story. Peace be with you all, who miss Alex so.

Phyllis Sommer said...

what a sweet way for friends to help ease your sister's pain, and such a lovely creation. thank you for this post today.

Motherhood for Dummies said...

what a sweet post Michelle. It was actually really sweet because someone in her ward put together a really profesional book filled with pictures and quotes from the funeral and quotes from the kids. She had apparently gotten a whole bunch of people to chip in and give pictures, things they loved about Alex, and such.

gunzie said...

What a wonderful thoughtful gift!

:: Suzanne :: said...

What a thoughtful and kind gift - removing the burden of 'what to do with his clothes? - and providing a snuggle (emotionally and physically). Very lovely.

I am sorry for your loss and for your sister's grief.

MommyK said...

What a horrible thing to have to go through. My thoughts and prayers are with your family.

Robin said...

I'm so sorry for your family's loss of such a special little boy. What a beautiful treasure your friends have created to help those who loved him remember him and snuggle close to his memory.

Kim said...

I remember reading that story--I felt so bad for the family, which I am so sorry to learn is your family. I also remember feeling disgusted about the idiotic letters to the editor from people who came to their judgmental conclusions based on what they read in a newspaper. How dare they criticize a tragedy in which they weren't even involved and when they didn't have all the details! I would think every mother could understand how easily a child, autistic or not, can slip away undetected.

The quilt is beautiful, and the story behind it is so very moving. Thank you for sharing it, and may God heal and richly bless your sister and her family.

Lisa said...

What wonderful people to give such a gift.

lifemoreabundant said...

What a beautiful gift.

I'm so sorry for your sister's loss and her subsequent "trial by press". That makes me so sad.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

I am so sorry for your family's loss, Michelle. But what a sweet, tender gift those ladies gave to your sister. I would imagine it's the perfect comfort.

Tracey said...

What a wonderful quilt!!!

Cagey said...

I have thought A LOT about your nephew since you told me the story and resulting negative media. *sigh* My brother and nephew are both autistic. My nephew does have a tendency to run away, so we know all too well how easy it is for him to slip away.

What a beautiful quilt and a touching tribute.

Christine said...

Oh, my. That is such a beautiful gift. His mother can literally wrap herself in his memories. Beautiful.

Terie said...

This is a sad story. What a beautiful gift indeed! He will always be remembered but you will all be able to see a block on that quilt and remember the day he wore it or what he was doing.

I am still wiping the tears from my eyes. So glad you shared this story with us. Thank You.

planetnomad said...

Oh what a horrible thing for your family to go through. I'm so sorry.

That quilt is beautiful. What a labour of love from those women to your sister. What a treasure for her.

the collective said...

what a marvelous story. thank you so much for sharing it!

librarycollective.blogspot.com

Melanie said...

What a sweet and touching way to remember Alex. I'm sorry for your family's loss.

Naomi said...

what a lovely way to memorialize a loved one. I hope your sister and family are comforted by it.

SandyQuilts said...

I'm so sorry for your family's loss of darling Alex. The quilt will last more than a life time. I hope the fabrics and memory comfort your sister.

Richelle said...

That is such a wonderful gift. Such a great idea. And a wonderful way to remember him.

Becky said...

I, too, had tears in my eyes as I read this post. I think of what happened recently in my life...

I work at a university in Washington State, and just last week we lost a student. As a PR representative for the university, I was closely involved in the story and heard every grueling detail. The thing that got to me the most was listening to how the mom and siblings (the father died two years ago) gave themselves closure (the body was never recovered). Any death is tragic, but the death of a child - no matter how old - is the most tragic of all.

What a blessing to have friends such as your sister's who thought of this touching and tremendously thoughtful thing to do to remember Alex.

It's beautiful.

WherestheBox said...

What a beautiful way for them to honor him. I am so sorry for her loss; I have heard so many stories of autistic children being attracted to water with tragic results, and it is incredibly sad every time.

Heather said...

What a tragic loss - my heart goes out to your sister and your whole family. It is every mother's worst nightmare.

The quilt is just lovely and such a creative way to bring comfort and help hold onto memories. I lost my mom 3 years ago on Memorial day and have been saving a bag of her clothes to make into a quilt for the same reason.

Babystepper said...

What amazing love. That's an incredible story, and I'm sorry, belatedly, for all the pain you and your family have suffered and are suffering.

Theresa said...

Your story about this gift is a wise and honest way to remember your nephew and respond to the negative messages that assaulted your family through the media. And now Alex is a part of our memories, too.

miriama said...

I have a friend whose son is autistic and I am constantly learning from her how difficult yet wonderful a life it is with him. There are many hardships but such joy with her son. I find your story sad but heartwarming as well. Thanks for sharing it with us.

ThatGirl said...

wonderful -- I hope she continues to find comfort in it. So sorry for your family's loss!

Lani ~ The Wooden Porch said...

That quilt is beautiful. What a sweet comfort for your sister. I am so, so sorry about you and your family's loss of Alex.

Sarah said...

Thank you so much for sharing. I work with children with autism and can only imagine the pain that any parent would go through after losing a child! This quilt is truly a work of love.

Daisy said...

My cousin (an adult now) is profoundly autistic. My son, age 16, has Asperger's Syndrome. Sometimes, sadly, doing all you can isn't enough. I hope your sister cherishes her positive memories; the quilt is a wonderful way for her to do this.

::Sylvia:: said...

What a tragedy. May he rest with God. What a lovely gift. I spent a month in Alaska doing mission work in 2000. Check out my blog if you'd like to read about what we did. www.orthodoxmom.blogspot.com

all over the map said...

I am so very sorry your family had to endure such a loss. I can only imagine.
What a wonderful gift that these woman have given to your sister. God Bless them and I hope your sister finds a bit of comfort in wrapping herself in this quilt.
xo

Anjali said...

That is truly a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.

And I'm so sorry for your and your sister's loss.

Margie said...

What a wonderful and thoughtful gesture. My heart goes out to your sister and all of your family.

Ter said...

My eyes filled up with tears as I read this post. I'm very sorry for your sister's loss. As a bereaved mother myself, I understand the pain of loosing a child, and how difficult it is, and how the general public can misunderstand.

How wonderful of the quilting group to do such a loving gesture for your sister in memory of her son. Believe me, it's these "little" things that matter the most, and help us get through life again.

Genny said...

That is such a beautiful gift. Your story is tragic, but I do hope that the quilt is able to bring comfort and happy memories!

Marketing Mama said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. That quilt is so beautiful. I hope it brings a lot of comfort to your sister.

My Ice Cream Diary said...

If only the media would look for stories like this instead of creating "dramatic" headliners. As if any parent would want that for their child.

It gives me hope to hear of sweet, intelligent, understanding people out there who know how to really show their love and support, in a time of need, through their talents.

I don't know your sister, but please tell her that I care. My youngest brother almost drowned in a backyard pond surrounded by unaware adults. It took an agonizing 2 minutes for my father to find him. And my son almost drowned in a hotel hot tub with a couple making out right next to him. It is all too easy for something so devastating to happen.

April said...

beautiful.....I have the cozy good feeling kind of cold chills...very well told...very touching story.

sogratefultobemormon.wordpress.com said...

wow M -- hard to believe that a year has already passed since your nephew died. it doesn't seem like it was that long ago. blessings to your family, kathleen

Cuddle Cottage said...

Your story made me cry, I'm so pleased that your sister was given this beautiful way to remember her baby boy.

The Estrogen Files said...

I'm so very sorry to hear of this loss but so touched by the memory quilt and the obvious gift of love by the quilters.

cndymkr / jean said...

First, my condolences to your family. Their lose is still burning bright. Second, to the woman who made that quilt. The love, the attention to detail, the tears of joy and sadness that went into making this a keepsake for generations will never be forgotten.

page2 said...

Thank you for the beautiful post. You made me cry thinking about Alex. And thinking about his mom trying to figure out what to do with his clothes after his death. What a wonderful gift to make his clothes into a quilt.

High-Heels And A Sippy-Cup said...

What a healing and beautiful gift for your sister, and probably your whole family. I imagine that unique quilt will go a long way in sustaining all of you as you grieve and heal.

Thank-you for sharing it with all of us.

Anonymous said...

I think it's wonderful of you to refrain from telling us about this until now. It's yet another example of how people judge things when they know little about them. Autism is at epidemic proportions today. and still misunderstood. bless you. annie

Chief Family Officer said...

Thanks for sharing this, Michelle. I was in tears halfway through. What a lovely, meaningful gift. I am so sorry about the tragedy your family has been through (and is still going through, I'm sure).

perilloparodies said...

I am so sorry for your loss. How beautiful that these very thoughtful women came up with such an ingenious and touching way to bless your sister and her family in a special way, and to relieve some of her stress over the clothing. The quilt is just beautiful, and quirky enough in the details that I would think it would be calming just to take it all in. Pockets, pins, tags and all... May God bless and continue to heal your sister, her family, and yours as well. Numbers 6: 24-26

Janet said...

As everyone else said, it's a wonderful and thoughtful gift. My nephew is autistic, and it really is amazing how intolerant people are about it. I do think that eventually what goes around comes around and those people who do irresponsible reporting will live to regret it.

Lei said...

What a tender gesture! I especially love that they left some of the tags on so she can be reminded of him at all different ages.

Dawn said...

what an unbelievably sad, inspiring, depressing, happy story! I feel so sorry for your family and the loss of such an (apparently) loved little boy. But what a gift those generous quilters gave to your sister. I have heard that disposing of things like clothing is one of the hardest things one has to do after a loved one dies. This is pure genius and total love. Thanks for sharing.

Juno said...

What a touching gift. Thank you for sharing with us.

Juno

SabineM said...

WHAT a beautiful gift! Wow....

SabineM said...

one more thing: My best friend lost her two year old to a drowning accident 6 years ago. She also took all the precautions possible and yet it still happened. It happens to the best of parents...I used to think it children drownings happened to those who didn't pay attention...I was wrong....
I remember that day as if it was yesterday..... It is because of that day that I have enrolled my youngest in swimming lessons since we brought her home at a year (I would have started earlier if I could have)....she now swims like a fish. Though I will never feel 100% confident, I know that her skills would give us a few minutes....if not more....

I am really sorry for your loss...what a BEAUTIFUL WAY to remember him by!

Soulful Jenn said...

You're a great storyteller.

I appreciate your genuine words as well as the carefully thought out pictures of the quilt you chose to share with us.

May God continue to bless you, your family & friends.

Sincere condolences.

Isabel Kallman said...

I am so sorry for your dear loss.

Thank you for sharing this lovely story with us.

MamaBird said...

That's so lovely - your nephew's story made me cry. What a wonderful tribute to your sister and her family - I hope it helps her with her grief. My thoughts are with you and your family.

Coleen & Kelly said...

what a wonderful tribute & reminder. after my father passed away, we made blankets from his clothes. every time i wrap it around me i think of him... it's such a treasure.

Melissa Markham said...

What a loving kindness and beautiful memorial! I am sure your family will always treasure the blanket and the life and love it represents.

Alice Wills Gold said...

WOW...this makes me want to quilt...who knew that man made material could bring such comfort? I guess that is why they call it a comforter.

What a beautiful gift.

patchwork said...

This is a wonderful way to keep him alive amongst you.Wonderful ideas an creativity here.Loved visiting your blog.