When Your Lap Is Empty: A Stitch Story

Grief is such a strangely empty, yet overwhelmingly present thing. That’s just it, too—what is grief? Is it a thing? A presence? An experience? An emotion? It certainly feels like all of them at some point or another.

What I do know is that, whatever it is, it is achingly universal. Yet, despite its universal nature, each time grief shows up, it manifests a little bit differently.

An Empty Lap

When Jane died, the couch was empty. When I miscarried, the future seemed empty. Then, when Little Bear died, my lap felt empty.

Still, when Jane died God filled my couch with Rosie. During the miscarriage, He filled my days with a puppy—my Gus boy. This time, He’s filled my lap with a quilt.

Little Bear came into our lives just before I started this quilt and was there for every single stage of it. From basting paper pieces to stitching blocks, from basting the quilt sandwich to hand quilting it, Little Bear was always by my side. And, then, just one week after its release into the world, she was gone. But, this quilt remains.

Grief is such a mystery. Just like quilting.

Why do we cut up fabric just to sew it back together?

This question answered my grief after Jane died. And, in some ways it is answering it again. A new quilt has been born out of the loss of my sweet Little Bear. In no way does it replace her tiny presence that could fill a whole room, but it does ease the ache ever so slightly.

Whatever grief you carry today, I hope the empty places are filled in part by the simplicity of pretty fabric, a needle, and some thread. Little Bear would want that for you.

This post was written in loving memory of our sweet Little Bear girl who passed away in September. As you can see, she’d want us all to just keep stitching.

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8 Responses

    1. Hi Carmel, I’m so sorry for your loss. They are just such darling creatures, and they leave such a big hole in our hearts when they’re gone. Sending hugs to you. ❤️

    1. Hi Barb,

      Thank you so much. They certainly do, and I’m incredibly grateful for stitching, especially during this time.

  1. Hello Carmel, thank you for opening your heart to us all.
    I’ve always wanted to do something really well; to make something someone would like enough to buy. When my colleague suggested a “learn to quilt” voucher as a retirement gift from the office, I never guessed it would be sew good! I have created scores of quilts over the past fifteen years. Many are gifts for friends and family and I’ve even sold a few. I use the proceeds to bless whoever God leads me to. A couple are on their way right now to a Cambodian prison where babies born to incarcerated women will have something to lie on.
    The process of designing quilts, (I rarely use another’s pattern), selecting fabrics, piecing and finally free motion or ruler quilting them on my Simply Sixteen HQ quilter, has helped to engage my mind through the various family crises that don’t go away because the kids have grown up.
    Focusing on learning and aiming for high standards, if not perfection, has helped me develop the spiritual fruit of patience, perseverance, self control and also to pass on to others the knowledge I’ve gained, and the blessings continue onward. Though defrauded of the proceeds of some of my work, I am buoyed by the fact that someone paid for them and they are being enjoyed, they have my name on it, and it is a quality article made with love.
    Yes, sewing quilts and other things has been a God-given occupation for me and stitching with friends leave us in stitches.

  2. I am so very sad for you Loss. I read this and it brought back so many things for me. I fought so very hard to have my children. At times I feared I would never hold a child of my own in my arms. I lost 7 babies between 8 and 24 weeks gastation . There were times I thought that their deaths would bring my own. I couldn’t imagine surviving the grief. My arms felt so empty! But in God’s mercy he filled my arms after all. I WAS able to have children! In the midst of the losses I gave birth to and raised 5 of them! But when I was 35 and my children were still little I had an emergency hysterectomy.. The surgeon came in to my hospital room the day after surgery and told me that he had removed a tumor the size of a basketball. He said it looked like cancer but he thought he had gotten it all. We needed to wait on pathology reports and I would need to be seen frequently until we knew. After he left my husband sat on my bed and held me amd we cried together. I begged God to let me be there to raise my babies.. (My youngest was only 7. ) And for their important moments. When I got home from the hospital I was greeted by my beautiful Irish setter Rosie. She was my constant companion as I healed from the surgery (I had an 18 inch incision) Rosie never left my side. Even following me into the restroom. Shortly after I got the news that I could go to annual check ins with the doctor, my beautiful Rosie girl suddenly lost control of the rear half of her body. And we had to say goodbye. It has been 15 years now since my cancer diagnosis. We have had a couple scares but I am still cancer free. I have been able to raise my kids and be there for all their big moments. I have even been ablr to witness the birth of my first grandchild.! One day I relized that I still found myself rocking back and forth as if I held a baby whenever I stood for very long and didn’t know what to do with my arms and I often crossed them not as if I was angry but because I didn’t know what else to do with them. When the kids had all moved out on their own I was so happy for them but I, like so many other empty nesters, felt lost. We have always been a huggy family. Inester, time of “What do I do now?” I had been a stay at home wife and mom for 29 years. My arms felt so empty! As I type this i find myself thinking that sounds like I was being so dramatic. But it was 2021. So we were in the midst of the pandemic. So I wasn’t able to see much of people. But I also started losing people that I loved so much so quickly. For a while we lost at least one a month. My response was to imerse myself in quilt projects. I became almost obsessed with deciding on fabrics and patterns and layouts. I taught myself to sew as a newlywed so I could make things like curtains and a quilt for each of my k8ds as nthrymoved from crib to big kid bed. and I had made baby gifts for people. When my daughter was pregnant I made quilts for my grandson ( to wrap him in,for in his crib and car seat) I made receiving blankets, burp cloths etc. For Christmas of 2021 I designed a quilt for all 9 members of our family. In August of 2021 I was diagnosed with PPMS ( primary Progressive Muscular sclerosis) It has progressed quickly and I have progressed quickly and it as made it hard for me to support my own body. I can’t do much independently. That means that my quilting has slowed down a lot. I used to spend days on end quilting from the time I woke til I fell into bed at night. Now I can only sew for an hour or two every once in a while. But still I love to imagine and dream of the quilts I want to create. Today I am reading in my bed where I spend all of my timethese days. I’m not alone. My lap is almost always full. Most days my sweet Lyla is in my lap but today it’s my husband’s dog Zena. I have experienced so much loss, life has had so many ups and downs but my life has been full. I have loved so many so much and been loved in return. My lap is empty but blessedly my heart is full. Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you. The road you are on is a bumpy one. Remember the gravel roads are often the ones that lead us to the most beauty. Take a deep breath. I know it hurts right now. Take the time to remember and grieve. Honor them and the beauty of the part they played in your life.

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