To express her love for our parents, my sister, Mary Elizabeth (Woolever) Shaffer, has created a quilt.
She brought the quilt to the 2000 reunion, and asked everyone there to sign
their names on the quilt. In July of 2001, the quilt was finally finished
and given to our parents, Frank and Dorothy Woolever. It carries a wealth of
meaning for us all.
Mary Elizabeth has written an explanation of her creative process, and the
meaning of the quilt. Her words are shown below. The reference to "Mary Leona" is to
my wife, whom we refer to with a middle name in order to distinguish
her from my sister, "Mary Elizabeth." The reference to
"Dick" is to Mary Leona's father, my father-in-law.
"It all started quite some time ago, in response to a story that Mary Leona
told me about her
family. I was so moved when she told me about her father being in the hospital, at
the end of his life, surrounded by his sons. Her story prompted me to
want to make an
expression of my love for my own family. And, I guess that makes sense, doesnt
it that love travels from family to family, and how one family can reach
another by its own expression of love? It is timeless, eternal and knows no
"After Dick, Mary's father, died, Mary shared with me about her father's
request in the hospital. He asked his sons to lift him up physically and hold
him. I was so moved hearing that and picturing it in my mind this big man
being held up over his hospital bed by his four sons. I asked Mary why she
thought he did that. She said, "I think he wanted to feel their
strength." He wanted to feel their strength of life and love, as he would soon be
departing. I thought, what an incredible gift they gave each other, a real
testament of Dick's faith and love for his family. So, being the child who
doesn't live close to her parents, I wanted to do something for my Mom and Dad to
express our love.
"The quilt incorporates images based on actual tracings of
everyone's hands. No matter where we all are, in a real way, you can touch any
one of us,
anytime, by touching our hands on the quilt. You can lie down and pull the
quilt over you and feel our hands touching you, giving you strength. I believe
in the power of the laying on of hands basically because I have
experienced it personally. So, that's the "why" of the quilt.
Actually doing it took much longer.
"I couldn't figure out how I would make the quilt, or what it would look
like. A bunch of hands lying on fabric seemed kind of silly. Anyway, one of
the early summers that my boys and I would meet Mom and Dad at South Turtle
Lake (Minnesota), I got them to draw around their hands, saying it was a class
project for Andy, my eldest son. That's as far as it went at first.
"I couldn't figure out what to do
next. So, I did nothing. Now, jump forward a number of years, maybe eight. Kristen
(the daughter of my brother, Greg) and I are in
a small group that met once every couple of weeks. As a group, we were reading
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, and discussing our
feelings about creativity and God. I brought up the idea of the quilt I wanted
to make. Bingo, it took off. The group thought it was a neat idea, and Kristen,
especially, got excited and offered to work on it with me. I thought that
would be a nice way to spend time with Kristen, creating something for our
parents and grandparents, and to be in community. So we began.
"Kristen was going home on Thanksgiving and would get everybody there to draw
around their hands, telling Mom and Dad it was a class project for Andy! Thank
God they had short memories. Plus, everybody picked out fabric to send along,
too, that would represent each one's life. When she got back, we cut out all the hands in
the fabric. We shopped for fabric
to place them on, and then got kind of stymied. We tried putting all the hands
together in the shape of a tree a family tree. Well, that was the funniest
looking tree you ever saw. So we put it away to think about it. Jump forward a
"Steve, my husband, was in the hospital having surgery. In the lobby of the
hanging the most beautiful quilt. It had hands on it! I thought it was
gorgeous, and was moved to try again. I took Kristen over to see it, and we were
both energized. We got together on a Saturday, and started arranging and planning.
The present quilt is what came out of our time together.
"At the center of the quilt is a heart I think God's heart, the source of
love. Pieces of all of us make up that heart. The hands on the inner
circle are pointed inward as we reach for God's love. The heart vibrates the
love outward by the stitching. Each hand touches those vibrations and is
then able to turn outward on the outer circle, sending what it felt from the
heart, out to others like Dick did with his sons. That action of faith went
inward and then flowed out to another family the path of love.
"It seems to me
that the real truths are always dichotomies. I know I find truth when that is
so. Anyway, the circle around the inner hands is like energy molecules, or the
DNA strand, intertwining and bursting with life's energy as it explodes out.
It's the big bang theory! From there the energy keeps flowing out, through all
the crevices, through hands, and out. It is ringed by an Old Welsh quilting stitch
that is the sign for eternity like a bubble around the family
our cell as it
divides to give life to another. The symbols of life keep repeating themselves
as long as we reach inward to find the outer.
"There are there main stitching lines
that surround eternity, to symbolize the trinity our oneness. In each
comer there are three interlocking circles of energy, headed for another family, another group
of cells, and another quilt begins to express our collectiveness, our
oneness in God.
"There are also other little things along the way. We chose primary colors
for the stitching around the heart and hands yellow for God's heart of
energy, red and blue around the hands. Hands placed together with thumb and
finger touching form a heart shape. Mom and Dad's hands made a "W"
for Woolever. Sarah, Kristen's sister, accidentally made a snip in the fabric as we were working on it
between her parent's hands. And so a heart has mended it.
"The quilting was done without a frame or any plan for what the stitching
would be. I just started in the center and worked out. It seemed to quilt
itself. Also, because it wasn't quilted on a frame it isn't perfect
quilt stitching, which I like, because that's life isn't it? It also made
it easy to travel and quilt anywhere. Some stitches are bigger that others, and
some of the knots may show. And that's its beauty the freedom of the
stitching. I think Grandma Hallie, my maternal grandmother, and her mother, are smiling somewhere.
"The back of the quilt is about creation. The first fabric seems to
contain the beginning swirls of creation. It forms the planet Earth, then
water, vegetation, sky, and the heavens. Surrounding the New Creation is God's
white light. Within the light are all the signatures from the Woolever family
reunion held in Des Moines in June, 2000. We all leave our mark, a place in the light. As I look at the quilt, I
realize it is not easy to see all the stitching. And isn't that like life
faith to believe in what I can't easily see, and yet know to be true?
"So, there's the quilt, and its symbols of comfort, faith and love. And it
works, too. One of the times Dad got sick, I was so scared. I went downstairs
to the quilt and placed my hand on his hand, and felt better. I could touch him,
feel his strength, and send him mine. That's what life is all about. Seems so
simple doesn't it?
"My love, Mary"