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

Approaching the final passage

I’ve been thinking a lot about life and death lately. Sitting beside a beloved sister and watching and feeling her gradually lose her grip on life is painful. Last November we shared this view over the Atlantic ocean on the occasion of my daughter’s wedding. (Venus is the small dot to the right of the moon.)


This photo is reflected in this quilt.


The top segment represents the crane, or bird of the sun. The crane represents immortality and can use its powerful wings to provide transport to the isle of immortals and provide aide to weary travelers on their journey. I think my sister was trying to say farewell to her daughter and husband today. She is so weak and yet isn’t quite ready to leave them.

The central portion of the quilt represents the sea of life that we are all traveling through and the various transports we take throughout life to enrich our journey. Water is also symbolic of the divine the flows beneath and undergirds us on our journey.

The fish at the bottom are symbolic of change and transformation that take place within the context of the divine. All anchored by compasses/stars in the corners to guide our way.

I have to believe that there is better and brighter waiting for my sister and her transformation will be glorious. I hope that there is a little left over for the ones of us that haven’t experienced that final transformation yet and are left to deal with the abyss of loss that we face.

Size: 60×60
Finished : 2012
Hand appliqué, stenciling using shiva paint sticks on boats, shadows and waves, hand piecing, machine piecing, hand quilting


Filed under applique, art quilt, batiks, dying with cancer, hand applique, hand quilting, shiva paint stiks, surface design

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

Drawn into the vortex

This is a quilt made several years ago. I loved the graduated and variegated fabric used as the background for the machine appliquéd fanciful figures. I was reminded of this quilt as I sat with my sister this afternoon as she continues her final journey. She described to me what she sees at night when the lights are off and only natural light is filtering through the room. She described to me a fanciful dog that changes shapes that resides in pile of blankets on the trunk. She described the reflections that appear on the wall from the light filtering through the front door onto the hallway and how the creatures dance and sway. The ceiling fan slowly rotating and creating a gentle breeze carries creatures around the room. The journey of slowly retreating from the reality we have known and existed in is fascinating. Oh, to understand the neurobiology and neurochemistry behind this process. On the other hand, living through the terrible ups and downs are painful for everyone.


As the colors gradually shift, I see my sister’s reality slowly shifting. But by being with her on this journey, we are all gradually being sucked into that vortex of changed reality.

Finished: 2000 for my niece, my sister’s daughter
Machine pieced, machine appliquéd using sulky rayon threads to highlight fabric,hand quilted
size: 54×54
The appliquéd designs are from a book of a noted author, whose name I do not recall, and since I am not at home to look up the name, I will add it at a later date.

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