My dad passed away almost three years ago. It's always hard to lose a parent, but especially at my age (I was 27 at the time) when you expect to have your parents around for a long time still. He had kidney cancer, but he didn't find out about it until he was already in the last stages. It was only a month or so after his diagnosis that he was gone. It was a horribly difficult thing to go through on it's own, but unfortunately it was made worse by many other losses all at the same time. Only the month or two before we had lost both my grandfather and my grandmother (within weeks of each other). And the week after my dad died, my husband and I got the devastating news that the baby we were waiting to adopt had been reclaimed by his birthmother. It is true: when it rains, it pours.
Needing something tangible to hold on to in order to keep on remembering my dad, I came up with the idea to make a quilt out of his clothes. Thankfully I had a dad who didn't like to go clothes shopping too frequently, and who also held onto several shirts from different periods throughout his lifetime. This was great for making the quilt since we were able to have squares of fabric from clothes spanning a lot of his lifetime (well, his lifetime from my parents' marriage forward). He had extra military clothes as well, so we didn't have to cut up the nicer dress Army uniform. And there were a few funny shirts in there as well -- like the one he always wore to wash the dogs in. Don't ask me why it was always the same shirt, but it was. Ha -- I bet not too many people have a dog-washing shirt! We also threw in some ties he wore that we enjoyed as kids (like the one with the trains on it).
I wanted to be able to make three identical quilts -- one for me, one for my brother, and one for my mom. Not only did we have enough clothes to be able to make enough squares, we also found three of each type of patch he got in the Army, so I was able to sew them on as well. My dad passed away in April of 2005, and I finally got around to starting them (with some help from my mom) that fall. They were then quilted professionally in November 2005, so we were able to have them done in time for Christmas, our first one without him. I can't tell you how much it means for me to have this quilt hanging in the hallway, for me to be able to walk up and physically touch the different squares with my fingers and remember my dad wearing those shirts and pants. It is such a comfort, especially on the hard days. Time does eventually heal the loss, but I will never stop missing him.
This was only the second quilt I had ever made. (Well, second, third, and fourth.) Sometime I'll have to tell you about the first one, from the class I took after we had first moved to the Great Cold North...