Well, yeah I know it isn't July... You see, this is how it starts...
Every spring, around April, I get all geared up to make a Quilt of Valor. A quilt for a soldier. I figure that I could finish it by July. Seems, kinda, more patriotic that way. Does it ever happen? Nope. The quilt always gets done, mind you, but closer to Christmas than 4th of July. And every year, I have no idea where the quilt is going...but by the time I am finished, someone has told me about "this soldier" and suddenly my quilt has a home. It just works out that way. Quilt done by Christmas and going to a soldier that knows somebody that I know. So I don't consider it a failure. Just a slight delay.
I think this quilt has a cool story. I started it in, yep, April. Some of you may remember the starter block. I messed around with the design until I came up with something I (and the guys in my family) liked. I loved the printed batik. Maybe not traditional patriotic fabric, but it works for me. So I have my design and a stack of fabric and I start cutting and sewing. I had to put the project up at the end of May because I was going on a big trip out West, to Oregon. Here's where it gets kinda fun.
I waited in the airport for 5 hours. No, this is not the fun part, but it had a vital role in the unfolding of this story. There was a rainstorm in Ft. Worth, so the planes were all delayed. When we finally boarded our plane, I was a little stir crazy and knowing me, I strike up a conversation with my flight companion. Now, I don't always do this. I flew all the way to Boston with nary a word passing my lips aside from, "Diet Coke, please." See? I can be quiet when I wanna be. But I had sat and sat and sat at the Indianapolis airport... and I was ready to reconnect with the human race. So... my flight companion. He was an older gentleman. A sweet face. I said hello and aren't you glad we're finally taking off and why are you traveling to Ft Worth? Yes, it was nosy and I hate to say it, but I'll get a whole lot worse in just a few minutes. He says he is going to help his daughter take care of her new baby while her husband comes to Indy for the 500. I said how sweet that was. Then I ask if he's retired and he said no, he was going to retire, but then his wife passed away and what was the point of being home all day, alone? Well, that is very sad, indeed. How did she pass?- oh, yes, I did. Can you believe it? Well, he starts to munch rather slowly on his package of trail mix... She had been sick for a while and then she took her own life. Oh! I am so sorry! And incredibly shocked- not at all the answer I would have expected. But you know what? He seemed to really want to talk about it. I'm not just saying that because I pried it out of him. He didn't get into details, thankfully, but he was really working through his grief and it was, oddly enough, a beautiful thing to hear and watch as he described how he had finally decided that her actions weren't a reflection of him and their 40 year marriage. She was a good mother and wife, but she had diabetes and mental illness and a failing mind can kill you just as fast as a failing heart can. That made a whole lot of sense to me. Chronic illness takes it's toll on the whole person.
He had a very gentle way about him. He went on to describe his family and you could just see how proud he was of his son and daughter. His son was in the Navy and was due to retire in 2008- he loved the Navy, but he knew he needed to be home with his wife and three small children... Eureka! Yep, I just got my military quilt an assignment! (I was even more forward and asked him for his address and his son's name... and believe it or not, he gave it to me. I guess I looked harmless enough.) And then he was telling me about his daughter who had finally had her first child at nearly 40 years of age- after years of wondering if it would ever happen- guess who that "Leaping Lizards!" quilt is for? Alex Rex is his grandson.
It's funny how a little conversation with a complete stranger... who had such sadness in his life... made me feel better about the world. Yes, there's a lot of brokenness around us, but there is a lot of strength, too. And that should encourage all of us to keep trying. Maybe, to be more watchful of opportunities to serve and help. Service seems to be politically incorrect, but really, it's a pathway to joy.