Friday, February 12, 2016

The Heart of Life

You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?

The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day
cannot unveil the mystery of light.

If you would indeed behold the spirit of death,
open your heart wide unto the body of life.

For life and death are one,
even as the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires
lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;

And like the seeds dreaming beneath the snow
your heart dreams of spring.

Trust the dreams,
for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.

Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd
when he stands before the king whose hand
is to be laid upon him in honour.

Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling,
that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind
and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing,
but to free the breath from its restless tides,
that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence
shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top,
then you shall begin to climb.

And when the earth shall claim your limbs,
then shall you truly dance on death -

kahlil gibran

Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon. Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting... from my heart and with my hands.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Saying Goodbye With a Heavy Heart

My sister-in-law, Becky, passed away in her sleep last night. Becky had battled end stage kidney failure since 2010. She battled it long, and she battled it hard, and she survived each stage of illness, a massive blood loss, terrible infections, a broken hip, and being put into several medically induced comas over the past 6 years. And she fought the good fight with absolute resolute determination and never ending hope.

Becky was a survivor. She was a fighter and she stood up for what she believed in and what she wanted to happen. And she really, really, really wanted to live. She wanted to live and she wanted and desperately needed a kidney transplant. But she was to ill to even be able to get back on the transplant list after a horrific spinal infection that lasted well over a year. Bedridden for an entire year in a small clinic outside of Anchorage, she survived that and was flown south when a doctor was found at Oregon Health Science University that was willing to try to operate and clean that infection out. And that bought her time with those that loved her to be with her and surround her with that love.

Becky was a survivor. But Becky, first survived a Coast Guard helicopter medevaced from a cruise ship in the Caribbean to the Florida Keys in January of 2010.  Battling many different problems, she fell ill an lost more blood than a person can usually survive. The cruise ship passengers lined up to donate blood and it was then discovered that the ships liability insurance would not cover that, so the ship's staff lined up and donated with willing hearts, instead. The helicopter only had room for her stretcher, the doctor, and the pilot, so my brother could not even get on board with her for the 20 hour flight to land. And worse of all, he was told she most like would not survive the helicopter flight.

Becky was a survivor. She survived that trip and made it to a hospital in the Florida Keys, where she was placed in a medically coma and given blood transfusions that later would cause antibody rejection, more blood loss and the beginning of major kidney failure. I lit candles and kept them going in my parent's home in Alaska where I had flown up to care for them and broken my own wrist and had undergone surgery. It was one heck of a January 2010. I had almost no candles in my aging parents home but I kept the few I had going until she came out of that coma on the 13th day. It was the first of many miracles.


Becky was a survivor. She survived the odds when her husband, my brother, battled his own illnesses, being put into his own medically induced comas for 4 different times. Still very, very ill herself, Becky traveled from from Anchorage to Seattle to the hospital where Doug was medevaced by medical transport. She wanted to be by Doug's side. But she slipped and fell and broke her hip and ended up one floor above him. I traveled to Seattle and stayed with them, going between his floor trying to pull him from the long coma, and her's where she was heartbroken knowing it would be days before she could be transported by wheelchair to his bedside. Shortly after her first visit, she was overjoyed when he'd come out of a his medically induced coma when his doctor's had all but lost hope.  Becky wished she'd be there for that but I was talking about her to him when he first opened his eyes. And oh how they all laughed later when I told him that the only reason he came out of the coma was because he got so tired of listening to my chatter 12 hours a day!

                                        A Heart for Becky and Another One for Doug

Becky was a survivor. But now, we have to strive to remember that love lives on through loss. Love is the survivor of all things.

Love lives on. For love is hope, and faith, and charity and the greatest of all. My brother's loss of his beloved wife will be all the harder now for all that they shard in sickness and in health. Forty years or so of marriage and a lot of really, really wonderful times and raising their beautiful children to adulthood and marriages of their own.

Love lives on. My brother, three grown children and their partners, and 6 grandchildren are left behind to mourn her loss. Doug and Becky have been living in Portland, after Becky was medvaced to OSHU for specialized care and surgery.Two of their daughters and their families now live there as well. And best of all, a miracle really, their son and his family came for a visit just a few weeks ago. I am so deeply grateful for that, and that she was able to meet her newest grandaughter from Alaska. It meant the world to her.

Love lives on. I am so grateful for the time that Becky was in our lives, for the laughter we all shared over pet stories, and family stories, and the private time I shared with just her as I picked her up and drove her to see Doug when he was hospitalized in four hospitals and three states.

Love lives on. It has been a long and challenging journey for everyone, but I will never regret the time I spent with either of them, not the traveling, not the visiting, not the care giving, not the one to three times a week visits that are now treasures, as I drove Becky from her daughter's home in Beaverton to whatever hospital Doug was in at the time.

Love lives on, as do all of the memories and all of the stories. I have no sense of direction, and we got loss over and over and she stayed calm and reread the google map print off to me as we tried to figure out what to do next, once even calling her daughter at work when we couldn't figure out how to get her back home.Oh, how we laughed at me and I didn't mind one bit!

Love lives on, as do all of the memories and all of the stories.  Becky loved her family more than anyone or anything in the world. A close second was animals as she adored all of the many pets they brought into their home over 40 years of marriage. She loved to sew and made beautiful gowns for her daughters events and clothes for all of her children as they grew up. She loved needlepoint and gardening and oh, yes, boy oh boy, did she love shopping.

Love lives on, as do all of the memories and all of the stories. I think I can honestly say, it was the shopping that kept her able to drive herself to dialysis three times a week for all those stressful hours of sitting there at a time! And oh, how we used to shop! I suspended all judgment during those days. Just rendered my coupons and my left over cash from her supporting my Seattle stay as I watched her shop. My family likes to say that I have a shoppers walk and no one can keep up with me. Well, I could not keep up with Becky, trust me.

Love lives on, as do all of the memories and all of the stories.  My heart knew this was her time for her, as none of us knows how long we have. But we always knew that if she didn't get a kidney transplant she had far more limited time. She lived life the best she could for as long as she could and I can truly say she lived it her way, fully her way.

Love lives on, as do all of the memories and all of the stories. I am filled with memories today, but I am choosing to remember her filled with life, with such a great vibrancy and with so much love of all of the things she held dear to her own heart. This is a photo of her taken many years ago when she and Doug were raising their children, first in Anchorage, and then in Eagle River.

Love lives on, as do all of the memories and all of the stories.I miss you dear, dear Becky and I always will. But boy, now I can really share my stories. And yes, a lot of them will poke fun at me!!!!

 Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon. Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting... from my heart and with my hands.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Fidget Quilts and Busy Heart and Hands

It's such fun designing, sewing, and quilting creative but simple little Alzheimer's Fidget, Busy, Tactile, or Sensory Quilts!

A quilt by any name for any good cause is a lovely one. And the best part of these is that they not only do not need to be perfectly sewn, with lovely full bindings, but it's much better if they're lumpy and bumpy, and the colors want to jump out at you from every which way!

That's their purpose here on earth. To bring joy and happiness and keep both heart and hands busy!

Each one is different and unique in its own way, just like each of us! Different textures, different colors, different strings and ribbons, and bobbles and rick rack and buttons. Bits of embroidery or applique, leftover bits of quilt blocks and patchwork patches of any bit or kind! A wooden belt buckle above to slide along the yellow rickrack.

A bit of lime green velcro with lace on one end to draw the eye to the fact that it lifts up and away and can be ripped and zipped and flattened back down again! Buttons tied on with crochet cotton, some ends knotted and left to dangle, just inviting a fidget or fiddle or two.

Old curtain rings to slide up and own with bits of lace to catch them here and there to add further interest. Even a hankie on the one below, sewn down a bit to hold the petal like folds but still welcoming exploration and ruffling.

I start with my hands and my heart. I'd mention my head as well, but not a whole lot of thinking was required and that was such a good thing.

I'm on my 6th week of almost non stop headaches, many of the severe migraine variety...and doctors and emergency room shots have not helped and those only sought after my own special mind over matter abilities for balancing and healing.

So, I knew then, that I had to deal with this, I had to find my own way to distract and easy the incessant pain that fills up every bit of the head and all of its cavities to imploding. So, I thought about my sweet mama with Alzheimer's for 8 going into 9 years and all I'd done with and for her as I traveled back and forth from Oregon to Alaska to help my father care for her..year after year, many visits in a row. 

For long before Alzheimer's Disease claimed her life, it claimed her memory, her mind and her body. She became the sweetest and dearest little lady in spite of all of this. In spite of being blind, and bedridden and barely able to lift her right hand much less use it to feed herself. But she was free of the pain that had plagued her, as it has plagued me for most of her life. Free of pain, free of emotional and mental confines she began to soar free on the inside before she soared free on the outside.

But in the beginning, she described the disease that was taking over her mind, as a big block. Like a headache only bigger and it wouldn't move and it wouldn't go away. So, for all of these weeks, with my own real headaches, ones that doctors have not helped, I felt myself merging even more than I normally can with my mother and her experiences and the energies moved me to work on keeping my own heart and my own hands busy. Very busy. Just like an A.D. person can be kept busy with little things to touch, and do, and fiddle and fidget and be kept busy with.

So, back to creating more fidget quilts! My own mother may be gone now, but more than 5 million people battle this disease and all of their loved ones with them. And nothing better to do than feeling like you have something to do!

Not just writing about Alzheimer's as I have, nor teaching and educating others with my sharing as I have, nor making all of my 75 little Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative small format art quilts and having them donating off for research funding, as I have...but now ...continuing to create these little lap sized charmers of good will and love.

Some to keep as examples, the ten or twelve that I have already given away, these three I am showing her, and three more in progress on my floor..yes, the headache and the heartache both can be eased by distraction, by the drive and the distraction of mind over matter, and by my own soul's purpose to make a difference.

Fiddle and fidget, tactile and sensory. Busy and fidgeting..I'm all of that and more and so are they!

Making Fidget Quilts for Alzheimer's Patients: Free Tutorials and Ideas


Alzheimer's Fidgeting and Mojo Uprising


AAQI Sprints to a Grand $1M Retirement Finale!

 (now if we could only retire Alzheimer's Disease!!!!)

  My old blog footnote read:

Michele Bilyeu blogs With Heart and Hands as she shares a quilting journey through her life in Salem, Oregon and Douglas, Alaska and all of her AAQI Quilting. Sharing thousands of links to Free Quilt and Quilt Block Patterns and encouraging others to join in the Liberated Quilting Challenge and make or donate small art quilts to the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI) Help us change the world, one little quilt at a time! 

And I feel we all made a difference. The best we all could and if love could heal..and it does..then someday it will find the cure to heal and prevent this disease! But for now, each of us, in his or her own ways continues to battle this disease! By being there for our loved ones with A.D. or Dementia or by donating to research and education or by making fidget or lap quilts! Don't know where to donate them..send them here and I'll find them wonderful homes. The demand now is HUGE!   

My new blog footnote reads:

Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon. Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting... from my heart and with my hands.