Just over a month ago I was contacted by a previous customer – she wanted to have another quilt made. (For more background about my quilting, read this.) I may write a post about her first two quilts, but let’s just say this new request was almost as tragic as the first. Meg was going to send me a box of baby clothes. Her friend’s young son died unexpectedly earlier this year. Recalling the quilts I made for her, she asked her friends for some of their son’s favorite clothes and she took care of the rest. One day this arrived:
Normally when I receive baby clothes for a quilt it’s a happy occasion – as happy as one can be when they see their child grow out of those newborn clothes. Parenting is full of grief, but this box brought a new form of grief to my sewing room. I flinched every time I looked at this box sitting on the floor. I did not want to pull the clothes out or start cutting them. It was too painful. And then…then I remembered this wasn’t about me. If holding this little child’s clothing hurt me, what was it like for his mommy and daddy to pack up the box? If imagining a little boy wearing this outfit made me tear up, what was it like for his parents to remember the last moment he had it on? I had no choice – I had to start working on this quilt. His parents didn’t get a choice, so I didn’t get a choice either.
I posted that picture on my facebook page and soon the comments started rolling in. Some from customers and friends who I know have lost a child. “What’s his name? You need to find out his name.” So I went back to Meg and found out – Javi. His name is Javi. Oh Javi.
Slowly, prayerfully I began to cut the clothes apart. I am careful when I work on quilts, especially items that I know are precious to others. But this time felt different. I held the clothes tenderly, I didn’t rush. I took my time and let the important parts of each outfit reveal themselves to me.
Javi’s parents had their lives torn apart the day he died. These clothes could no longer be used the way they were intended. There was no longer a Javi to wear the penguin pjs or the dinosaur t-shirt. I cut them apart and slowly began to put them back together, but in a new way. The clothes couldn’t be used as clothes anymore, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be used – in a new way. I was taking something tragic, awful, worthy of a nightmare and making something new. I’m reminded of lyrics from a Gungor song: “You make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of dust.”
I took it all apart then put it all back together. The old way was gone. Something new had to be made out of something old. Something beautiful created out of something horrible. New life out of death. And so, they cuddle up underneath this quilt. The clothes that once caught his tears now catch theirs.
Javi, we remember you.