Category Archives: cancer

Transformation of the Butterfly

The process of healing and trying to deal with my sister’s death continues her journey. My husband had a beautiful card for me when I returned home. “If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies.” Jean always referred to her experience as a journey or a process. Butterflies provide such a beautiful comparison for this part of our journey.

“What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.”
― Lao Tzu

About three years ago I finished a quilt with butterflies.


I used several of the specialty embroidery stitches on my sewing machine to enhance the butterflies.



I’m thinking today about my sister and how she could leave her cocoon /pain behind and achieve the freedom from pain for which she longed.

Size: 62×80
Machine appliqué, hand quilting, batiks, sulky nylon thread to enhance the designs
Completed: 2008



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Filed under applique, cancer, dying with cancer, hand quilting, healing, inspired by other design, machine applique, poetry, quilting

I do not approve, I am not resigned

The ceremonies are complete. Condolences have been given and received. I knew Jean as wife, mother, daughter, aunt but mostly just Sis. I discovered another part of her in the last couple of days – scientist, professional, collaborator, coworker, friend. Although I’m terribly uncomfortable in social gatherings, it was wonderful to learn about and have people share the part of my sister of which I had not been a part. Still, we are left feeling empty and bereft.


“Dirge Without Music”

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, — but the best is lost.

The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.”
― Edna St. Vincent Millay


Our hearts are broken and we are waiting for the seeds that you planted there to sprout and begin some new growth.


Size: approx 60×60
Finished: 2011
Machine piecing, hand appliqué, hand quilting


Filed under applique, cancer, dying with cancer, hand applique, hand quilting, original designs, photography, poetry, quilting

The final passage

The last few weeks of my sister’s journey with cancer have been painful for her and painful for her family as we stood by helplessly and watched her slowly go away from us. She was a beautiful person, full of love and devoted to those around her. I began this quilt in late summer when we knew there was little hope of her recovery. I put the last stitches in the quilt late this afternoon and told her about her quilt when it was done. I told her that no one could have a better sister than the one that I have. By two o’clock the next morning she made the next step on her journey and left her pain behind and left a huge hole in our hearts.


Not a great photo, but considering its late at night or early in the morning, it’s the best I could manage right now.

The imagery is meant to suggest leaving the dark and pain behind and slipping into the light and gaining her wings of freedom. She is my only sister/sibling. I have to believe she is in a safer, more peaceful, calmer, pain free place. My heart aches with the missing of her already.

Size: 52×52
Finished: October 17, 2012. 4:30pm ET, West Chester, Ohio


Filed under applique, art quilt, cancer, Celtic, dying with cancer, hand applique, hand quilting, original designs

So long, so short

The hours stretch into days. The pain gets deeper. The dying with cancer stretches on and on. I see the body and the mind gradually eaten up, yet the breath remains. I long for the release for you, but it is my own longing. I can’t fathom what is in your own heart and mind. I see you reach and grasp for your husband in what appears to be delirium. My head feels like pinwheels spinning in colliding directions.


A month ago we were laughing, exchanging stories, doing the typical sister thing. It is such a short time ago. But today, and yesterday and the days before that, have been interminable, watching you slip away a little piece at a time. Only yesterday, I was the big sister being blamed for all of your misfortunes. Today, I’m holding you, to try to protect you from what I cannot see.

I wish there was peace and calm and comfort. It hasn’t come yet. I see your daughter struggle with the loss of the mother that she knew and the remaining shell of your existence. I struggle with how to comfort her in this interim. The why’s ….. The when’s …..

The pattern from Jinny Beyer

Size: 45×60
Finished: 2011
Machine pieced, hand quilted


Filed under cancer, dying with cancer, hand quilting, quilting

Dying is such sweet sorrow but getting there is hell

This final journey with my sister has included the ups and downs that we were told about. It is primarily her husband, daughter and myself with hospice involved providing care. This week an aide was hired to come in at night to help so that the rest of us could get some sleep. We were all becoming completely frazzled. Each person experiences this journey at a different rate. Yesterday the husband was convinced that her cancer was in remission and we weren’t doing enough. After another emergency visit from hospice we were assured that in fact what we were experiencing was not remission but another of the little ups.

During this week, this is all the quilting I have been able to do. I had purchased the book Appliqué in Reverse by Hote
Because I liked the patterns. Didn’t have much intention of using a different method than what I usually use.


I had also purchased Transfer Eze fromOriginal Creations Quilt Shop in Lawrenceberg, IN which was recommended to transfer a pattern for embroidery or appliqué. It’s a product that you can run through your printer than it adheres to the fabric and when complete will dissolve in water. I got it because i wanted to applique on a dark fabric. Haven’t done too much as you can see, but so far I ‘m not too happy with the stiffness or the way it needles.


Anyway, back to cancer. By Friday afternoon I needed a significant break from the high emotions so decided some quilt therapy was in order. I took a couple of hours off and headed to Aunt Ruth’s Quilt Shop in Sharonville, OH. They have a wonderful selection of batiks and fat quarters that I love to peruse. This week has been really crazy and I’ve never been quite sure what day it is, so on my way into the shop I checked to see what day it was. Yup, Friday, October 5th… So I’m sunk deep in the enjoyment of color and patterns and one of the ladies says to me, ” just want to make sure that you know that it is Fat Quarter Tuesday and all the fat quarters are only $2.50″. OK … I have completely lost it. I must have had a really strange expression on my face because the second woman chimed on and said ” oh, yes, every Tuesday”… I kind of looked at them and said that I thought it was Friday. They looked surprised and started to laugh uproariously. It seems that they usually work together on Tuesdays on Fat Quarter Day. The good news is , I’m not as crazy as I thought and I got my fat quarters on Friday at Tuesday rates!

So it seems I got my own little uptick on this journey. And some beautiful fabric to soothe the soul.

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Filed under applique, cancer, dying with cancer, hand applique, quilts from purchased patterns

Surviving end of life with a loved one

My sister continues her journey with this vicious disease of cancer. I’m not sure right now which times are easier or harder—the times of lucidity and realizing where she is —or the times of drugged hallucinations. There is no better with this disease.

So I am left struggling with some thread of sanity in this journey. And that is my needle and thread.

I’m looking back today at some completed projects to try to find a thread of life free from pain and struggling.

This is a project completed a couple of years ago that I especially enjoyed. It started with a beautiful floral design in a Dover publication. I frequently try out a design in a small piece prior to starting a larger piece. I had these lovely, rich brown colors is my stash. One was a batik and one a paisley (which I am a thorough sucker for!). This is currently hanging in the hall in my sister’s house and I am passing it every day as I am trying to provide her some comfort.


I liked the way the original design worked. So I put the rich browns together with some creamy beiges and did a modified falling blocks design for a background, with the flower appliqué in the center. Then I added some corner appliqué. It was finished with a piping of deep purple paisley.


Sorry about the basting pins—the photo was taken before it was quilted.

Here is a close up of the central appliqué.


My final thoughts are —-Cancer sucks! And why does dying have to be so ——-hard!

Finished: 2010
Machine pieced, hand appliquéd, hand quilted

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Filed under applique, art quilt, cancer, dying with cancer, hand quilting, inspired by other design, quilting, traditional block

Dreaming of Spring

My sister continues her struggle with cancer, right now we’re working on trying to find the right balance for more effective pain control. This has meant giving up some decision making on her part because of the fuzziness caused by the pain control drugs. We did have a wonderful couple of day visit from her niece- my daughter and grandson. It was wonderful to see my sister light up and laugh and share good memories! This seemed to me like a little springtime in the midst of some ugly weather on our journey. Here is my interpretation of springtime.


If I am recalling correctly, I think the blocks are called railroad tracks. I love Jinny Beyer’s. Quilters album of Patchwork Patterns
and always turn to that resource for inspiration. I arranged the blocks to go from lighter to darker top corner to bottom corner. Then I stenciled a feathery plant with purple berries onto the upper left corner. Well actually, the berries weren’t stenciled but put on with a pencil eraser! On top of the feathery plant, I the appliquéd tulips.


Today, I needed a little spring in my life. So this was it!

Finished: 2000
Size: 60×72
Hand appliquéd, hand quilted, additional surface design


Filed under applique, art quilt, cancer, dying with cancer, inspired by other design, quilting, shiva paint stiks, stencil, surface design, traditional block