A Very Special Quilter Who Never Made A Quilt

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Many of you know I grew up in a house where quilting and quilters were part of our daily lives. Envelopes containing orders, questions and catalog requests usually covered the kitchen table. Stacks of quilting stencils gathered to fill orders often took up space on the ironing board. Tiny pieces of card stock and ice-like crystals of templates plastic were tracked through every inch of our house from stencil cutting for years and years. Nearly every inch of our attic and basement was filled with kit quilt patterns, art needlework patterns, salesman's sample cases, quilting books, patterns, sample quilts, button cards, fabric samples, stencil cutting machines, thimble making equipment and hundreds of other treasures dating back to the early 1900s.

Never once, well okay, maybe once or twice, did she complain about having our home consumed in manufacturing and business operations. She always made our house a home. I know we've all heard the saying "behind every successful man is a woman". In my family growing up that was a true fact. When my Dad won the Michael Kile Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to quilting it was almost as much my Mom's award as his.

Garrett & Violet Raterink 1992

My Mom, Violet Raterink, passed away on January 9th after a 10 year battle with Alzheimer's disease. She was diagnosed shortly after my Dad passed away in 2001. Looking back it's hard to believe my Mom never made a quilt. She had the skills to do it. She was a talented seamstress. She had the patterns, rulers, sewing machine and such. She knew how to make a quilt and could teach others to make quilts but she never made one herself. You know what? I never asked her why.

Alzheimer's is a terrible disease. It's complicated, confusing, cruel and unforgiving. I read everything I could find when Mom was diagnosed but nothing prepared me for the feelings I experienced when she actually died. Yes, I was sad and I cried but it wasn't the same as when I'd lost other loved ones. Even though she was in a memory care unit, Mom and I went to the doctor together, out for coffee and ice cream together, to sing-a-longs together, shopping and sometimes we just sat together. I've come to realize I'd actually been grieving for ten years over and over again as each little piece of my Mom slipped away until in the end Mom was already gone. No one told me it would be that way so I hope if you know someone who's caring for a relative with Alzheimer's you'll tell them it might be like that. It truly was more painful when I realized she no longer knew who I was than it was to kiss her good-bye knowing she might die before I came back to see her.

With all that said, I ask you to support the Alzheimer Art Quilt Initiative and the wonderful work Ami Simms is doing to help fund Alzheimer's research. Ami's mother also passed away due to Alzheimer's. Click on the link above or HERE to learn more about Alzheimer's and the ways you can help or show your support.

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