Category Archives: dying with cancer

Spring to Summer

“When you come to the edge of all that you know, you must believe one of two things: either there will be ground to stand on, or you will be given wings to fly.”
O.R. Melling, The Summer King


Days are longer, days and nights are warmer, spring flowers are disappearing, strawberries are about to turn red, peaches appear as small nubbins on the tree, the first spinach, lettuce and chard have been enjoyed.  Spring is nearly over.spring to summerThe center applique square in this quilt was the last piece of applique that my sister completed before she passed away from cancer last fall.  I felt it deserved a place of honor and remembrance.  I surrounded the applique with a block called “Broken Stone” which was published by the Kansas City Star on January 4, 1950.

size: 36×36

hand appliqued, machine pieced, hand quilted



Filed under applique, batiks, dying with cancer, hand applique, hand quilting, healing, historical quilt block, quilting, wall quilt

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

Healing: Like a kaleidoscope

My heart and soul have felt shattered by the loss of my sister.  After being at home for a week, with time with my quilts and with my family, I’m beginning to see all the shattered pieces come together into some kind of pattern.  This reminds me of a kaleidoscope that is made up of many disparate pieces that come together to create a beautiful pattern.

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”

-Kahlil Gibran

Losing someone so dear, makes you look carefully around at what you have.  This week, spending time with family and especially the grandsons in the beautiful fall weather in the mountains, helps to unmask the sorrow.

Size: 48 x 48

Machine piecing, hand quilting

Finished: 2011

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Filed under art quilt, batiks, dying with cancer, hand quilting, healing, kaleidescope quilt, original designs, photography, poetry, quilting, Uncategorized

Desert Solitaire

Trying to recover a sense of time and place after a loved one succumbs to the ravages of cancer is a long process. I think that I am beginning that portion of my journey.

This quilt was completed a few years ago but encompasses the colors that I love of the desert. I’ve returned to the desert to begin my rehabilitation.


It has been titled “Desert Solitaire” since the beginning.

“Benedicto: May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you — beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.”
― Edward Abbey

The wide open spaces, the beauty of the sky bring a kind of peace and sense of wonderment that help restore the soul after a terrible tear.


Goblin Valley, a part of the San Rafael Swell, Grand Staircase Escalante, Utah



Let the healing begin.

Size: 54×54
Machine pieced, hand quilted, variation on log cabin blocks

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Filed under batiks, dying with cancer, hand quilting, photography, poetry

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