Nov 3, 2018

Quilts and Health: Healing *With Heart and Hands*

Quilts and Health is name of a beautiful book that I recently discovered online. Written by Marsha MacDowell, Clare Lutz, and Beth Donaldson.

Imagine my surprise to discover that I was mentioned in the footnotes and bibliography! Goodness sakes!  If it were you, wouldn't you be not only surprised but incredibly curious to know what you had said or had mentioned about you?

I tried finding more information and found references to the book, its authors and how it could be purchased. I debated and debated about buying a book just because it had my name listed somehow or otherwise mentioned in it.

But as someone who has worked so long and so hard with loved ones on both a variety of illnesses, including being a primary caregiver for mother's Inflammatory Breast Cancer in my home in Oregon through chemo, mastectomy, and radiation and spending many years combined, living in my childhood home in Alaska helping my mom with 8 years of beginning to advanced Alzheimer's, my dad with severe ophthalmic shingles, heart disease and vascular dementia (all in home, with our family, not state or federal supplied hospice or any provided care throughout ever qualifying or provided by the limited social services and funding available.

I've also helped others with many, many aspects of severe infectious brain trauma, lung disease including  cancer, bone cancer, and other very challenging diseases.

I'm grateful to have had other volunteer opportunities, hospice and lay transpersonal healing therapies over multiple decades across many states and places in time.  I helped others in hospitals, doctors offices, and in others or my own home. It taught me so very much about caring for others and helping in even simple ways during life's most challenging experiences.

I have learned so very much from those walks with others and their journey through treatments or end of life experiences and in turn, been blessed with so many discoveries about inner strength (both theirs and my own when care giving) and the incredible strength we call upon when we don't even know we have it in us.

So, I knew that I not only wanted to buy the book, but needed to! Not as a 'vanity' purpose but because I love to read about others and how they cope and what they've learned as well. It fills and touches a very deep core in my heart to share in other's experiences.

I bought the book and genuinely loved it. It's not only a gorgeous "coffee table" book but a meaningful one that others are drawn to and want to pick up and read. When my book arrived, I poured over it feeling so many emotions, so many experiences in my life and s lovely connection of course with so many amazing quilts.

It turned out to be a very dear experience reading about the journey of these women, teachers, healers, and patients all walked their way down an amazing discovery of just how much quilts were connected, one experience after another, to almost every disease they read about, looked up on the Internet . And I can only assume how one of them apparently found me and this blog.

What I learned was that one of them very quickly discovered that not only was she a beginning writer/researcher for this book, but became a cancer patient fighting for her own life.

That she personally  experiences being welcomed into her very first doctors appointment to be greeted by a quilt hung in the waiting room.  And later with a quilt in a bag of loving care items of her very own to keep as she kept warm and comforted during chemotherapy.

It is heart touching as it goes on to explores the personal meaning and comfort that a quilt that give to someone who is ill as well as the beauty that one can bring into someone's life.

I love my quilts and I can't imagine not sleeping under one, or two, or three or four when it's really cold! They add comfort and warmth and yes, beauty to the lives of anyone who has one, is given one or creates one.

And where and how did I fit in you ask?

It was about my writing, that back pocket degree and an ability to share here on this blog my own personal and deeply personal and spiritual journey.

One simple paragraph that I wrote about my spiritual connection  to creating and giving away my quilts. One that I write about over and over again.

Not my 75 art quilts to AAQI, my dozens and dozens of comfort quilts to hospitals, care homes, waiting rooms, bereaved families, babies and toddlers in Children's Hospitals or Neo-natal units.

For while I am very proud to have managed to create and give these away, not one of them ever had a personal label or even my name on them as my art quilts did, but they meant the world to me in the creating and the giving and I hope they somehow, touched hearts in many states, countries and even to other continents like Africa and Australia.

So, there I was ....well, there my words were quoted from one of my blog pages in all their fast thinking and typing style I use, never thinking they be in a book someday or surely I would have tempted to clean up my reiteration or word usage, heck knowing me I would have taken so much time doing it, I would have changed my mind and never submitted them if I had been actually asked.

So, I am fine with the not knowing, not being asked as many who had quilts actually included (none of mine are there, just my words) for their lovely quilts, their work, and their words. I am brought to tears just to be in such a dear and special project.

Quilts and Health, page 48:
The preface by the authors using some pretty common quilting sayings that are used over and over by quilters reads: 

 "When life throws you scraps, make quilts,
Our lives are our quilts - bits and pieces, joy and sorrow, stitched with love"

"Those who sleep under a quilt sleep under a blanket of love."

And they go on to add:.

"These proverbs reflect the motivations of so many who turn to making and using quilts for personal well being and healing. and The work of these quiltmakers produce a tangible, tactile evidence of progress towards recovery or of acceptance s of living with altered conditions, of perseverance, of life-affirming activity, and of continuing to be productive in the face of adversity.

(Marsha MacDowell et al.)

But then my tears begin every single time I read this:

"Quilt artist Michele Bilyeu powerfully expressed her feeling about quilting like this:
I use the healing gifts that I have been blessed with, and take those energies and infuse the fabric with heart, and thought, and caring, and prayers and I send them off into the world. That is the essence of a healing quilt, a prayer quilt, a quilt.
Be kind to one another in word and deed and make a difference in someone else's life today, and everyday. And then think about making and giving away for charitable giving and charitable causes. I just know you'll feel a whole lot better!
You'll look at yourself differently, your life differently, your aches and pains and challenges differently, and you will alchemize the transformative process that is really and truly mind over matter...the unity of mind, body, and the act of giving, and that gratitude for what you do have...and not just focusing on your own sadness or your own losses or depression. Focus on what you do have, what you are grateful for and give to others as you also create a form of giving to yourself."


  "Notes 2.
Michele Bilyeu, "The Healing Art of Sewing and Quilting," Michele Bilyeu Creates *With Heart and Hands*,"

What can I say? I loved being mentioned like this and for this!

I am humbled, and filled with an overwhelming heartfelt emotion for all my loved ones and I have been through, together. For all that each and everyone of you have gone through and experienced.

For all I have been blessed with and what good I might have been able to do in my lifetime.  I only wish I had the time, the health, and the physical ability to do so much more than what I have.

Michele Bilyeu
With Heart and Hands


The Healing Art of Sewing and Quilting

Healing Hearts Textile Arts

Praying for a Miracle

Love from Michele With Heart and Hands

Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands sharing her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon and back again. Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting "from my heart and with my hands".

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