My mother and father lived as a team. They worked together, played together, and raised children together.
When my mother developed Alzheimer's disease, my father stayed by her side, day and night, helping her through it every single step of the way. Even when my father died at the age of 93, my mother remained peaceful and content. I knew she could still feel him next to her, always by her side...and with her, all the way.
My parents story, like so many others, goes back 61 years and through many challenges. They met during WWII and my father had to travel 5,000 miles to meet, and court her. Five children later, a house that burned to the ground around them, and the near death of three of their five children, they simply persevered through it all.
When my mother was diagnosed with advanced (stage 3b out of 4) inflammatory breast cancer, my dad brought my mother south from Alaska to Oregon...to live with me and have the three of us help her go through 3 months of the strongest chemotherapy our Salem Cancer Center had ever used, a 3 month period for a mastectomy, and three months of intense radiation. With almost no chance of surviving because of her age, other illnesses, and its late stage, she did anyway. But tragedy struck again. She survived an impossible cancer only to face the ravages of Alzheimer's Disease.
As devastating as this was for my father, he never left her side, performing all household tasks like cooking, cleaning and laundry, and all personal care for my mother... until his death. He helped her every day of his life, even while he was,himself recuperating from two heart attacks, and congestive heart failure. He could barely walk to the kitchen, but when he did, he was carrying two cups of coffee.....one for her, and one for himself. And with what little energy he had left, he sought to engage her in conversation and to bring her out of the deep lost place she had retreated to.
When he died, I lay by her side, for three days and three nights, always holding her hand and talking to her in his place. When she finally realized it was me, and not him, on the fourth day and asked me if he had died and I very gently explained how he got very old, and very tired, and very sick..she told me 'It's ok, then, Michele. That is what he wanted and needed to do. I'll be ok." And she was. I told others she could still feel him all around her...in the house he built with his own hands for her and in the every thing that we did for her in his place. Always, together...even past death...they are together, all the way.
As I looked at all of the 25 or 30 quilts that I've made and given away this year, it was this little tiny one that I knew I had to feature for Amy's Fall Quilt Festival. It symbolizes why I quilt..to give my life purpose and meaning and not just as a hobby that I love.
And yes, my stories are very, very personal. They have to be.
Like the little giraffes on this art quilt...we are all sticking our necks out to bare our stories, our pain, our loss, and our souls to work together for a cause. And A.D. creates a jungle...figuratively and literally in the brain with its plaques and tangles....so, giraffes and jungle fabrics! As a family who completely cares for our mother in her home, with no outside help, on an island in Alaska...we often refer to zoo and jungle as our lives now with this horrible disease.
This little quilt will be sold at auction next week at the Houston International Quilt Festival to raise funds to enable research into this dreadful disease through the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative
Because of the meaning this charitable donation and all of my quilts for AAQI have for me, it is my entry for Amy's Creative Side's Fall Quilt Festival. Check it out and join in the fun from Oct. 28-Nov.4, 2011
Bloggers' Quilt Festival :: Fall 2011 | Amy's Creative Side
And check out all of our AAQI quilts for sale and at auction every month at . All profits go to research funding for Alzheimer's Disease. This little quilt is heading for Houston, along with five more of my little art quilts for the Houston International Quilt Festival where it will be available for purchase along with many, many others..Nov 2-6, Exhibit Hall, Row T, in the front)
But many more are available on the AAQI website including our fabulous November 1-10 auction AAQI Stanley Cup Quilt Off featuring some very famous quilters and some super amazing quilts!
8228 With You All The Way
Salem, OR USA
Width: 12" Length: 9"
Materials/Techniques: Machine embroidery, free pieced cottons, selvage strips, prairie points, and ceramic beads.
Artist Statement: My mother and father lived as a team. They worked together, played together and raised children together. When my mother developed Alzheimer's disease, my father stayed by her side, day and night, helping her through it every single step of the way. Even when my father died, my mother remained peaceful and content. I knew she could still feel him next to her, always by her side and with her all the way.
Dedication: Dedicated to all who remain steadfast and true to those they love, trying their best, no matter what that might be, to stay with them and help them through all of the challenges of life.
Michele Bilyeu quilts for the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI) With Heart and Hands