22 October 2013

Golden Lining

On December 23, 2006, I was sitting comfortably in my reclining chair with a nice warm corn bag beneath my back, hand-stitching a quilt of favorite photos I'd printed on fabric, when suddenly the phone rang. The old kind of phone, with a rotary dial. It was quite a reach over the Amish quilt frame to answer the phone.

I nearly dropped the phone when I heard my friend Shonna's voice. Or should I say, tears. Yes, I could hear her tears across the phone.

We had scheduled a photo shoot in a couple of weeks for me to photograph her porcelain dolls. She made the most beautiful dolls, and they were her "children." Like me, she'd married very late in life. She'd never had a chance to be a mother to a child of her own. So she designed children. Perfect, life-like, photogenic children.

Shonna's babies

She asked if we could postpone the photo shoot.

"I have a tumor," she told me. "They found a tumor."

My heart literally stopped beating. I didn't know what to say.

"It's on my ovary," she explained. She couldn't even say "ovarian cancer" then. She was in shock. She'd taken care of herself. She was never in a high-risk category. She had annual checkups. She was scared, but she was trying to hang on. "I have to have surgery, and then I have to have chemo and radiation."

Trying to remain hopeful and upbeat, knowing what I knew about ovarian cancer, the silent killer that comes without symptoms until it's too late, I told Shonna we could do the photos as soon as she was ready. Any time. Day or night.

I looked so much younger then.

As I hung up the phone, I looked down at my stitching. I'd been outlining the Jordan River Temple, where she and her husband had been married just a few years earlier. I'd gone on a whirlwind temple excursion a few years earlier and attended four temples in one day, six temples in three days. At the time, the only place you could do that was the vicinity of Salt Lake. I was in Salt Lake to shoot my cousin's wedding, and I spent the day before the rehearsal dinner doing something I'd wanted to do for many years... as many temples as I could squeeze into one day. I'd shot three more temples that day, too, and eight in three days. The quilt on which I was working contained 12 of my most favorite temples.

I'd always thought my one-day temple adventure was pretty special because most of my peers at the time were boasting how many mountains they could climb in a day, and after my emergency back surgery a few years earlier, I was slower than ever going uphill, especially at altitude. I'd done something none of those mountain climbers had done, and it was my own little laurel. The quilt on which I was working was to be my medal.

Immediately I knew I had to finish the quilt and give it to Shonna. It would mean something to her, too. It would mean more to her because she might not get to make any more temple trips.

She'd always wanted to go with me to watch The Lizard during the Triple Bypass bicycle extravaganza. She'd wanted to make a quilt with me for the Denver National Quilt Festival. She'd wanted to go camping with us in Estes Park, then go hiking with us in Rocky Mountain National Park. For three years, we made plans for what we'd do when she got better. But Shonna never got better.

shaving cream dyeing

The second frame fabric for this quilt was my first attempt at dyeing fabric with shaving cream. I knew nothing back then about preparing fabric for dyeing. I think I used supermarket dye, and most of it washed out. But there was just enough of a hint of tan from the rose and brown I'd mixed to form a marble-like background, which was perfect for framing the temples.

I had a bit of gold lamé fabric left over from one of my adopted kids' Halloween costumes from a decade or so earlier, and I used that as a narrow border around each temple. A Golden Lining. The perfect name for the quilt!

The background fabric was linen in an antique ivory tone that harmonized perfectly with my tan shaving cream cotton. The backing was the same linen because I'd bought enough of it for both sides, unbelievably. I didn't have much experience with measuring for quilts back then.

quilting by hand

I hand-quilted the outlines of each temple with gold metalic thread. I finished the quilt just as Shonna was beginning her third chemo treatment, and I presented it to her. She cried. She said it was the most beautiful quilt she'd ever seen. She especially liked the Jordan River Temple photo.

The quilt hung on her bedroom wall until Shonna died three years later, during her third battle with cancer and her third round of chemo.

I named the quilt "Golden Lining" because of what temples symbolize to me. I'd grown up with quotes and expressions about silver linings, emphasizing how we need to always look at the positive in every situation. Gold was more valuable than silver, and to me, the gold lamé really made the temples sparkle.

The Golden Lining now is Shonna is free from suffering. The Golden Lining now is she found reasons to smile and be happy, even when the going was rough. The Golden Lining is I got to be Shonna's friend.



  1. Shonna sounds like someone very special! And what a wonderful friend you are to have done this for her. What joy it added to her short life.

    1. Thank you, Brenda. I hope I did add some joy to the final years of her life...

  2. What a great friend you are and a beautiful quilt.

  3. Sounds like a great person indeed and some special to do as well for the both of you, crummy cancer

  4. What a beautiful blog post. I love how you use the works of your hands to touch the hearts of those you love. A quilt is very special, it not only warms the body but the heart as well.

    Blessings to you always

    1. Thank you, Stitchy. I've always felt something I've made might be more symbolic than something I could buy in a store...

  5. Lovely quilting, lovely fabrics, lovely friend. So sorry for your loss - I'm sure it still hurts.

    P.S. What amazing dolls!

    1. Thanks, Sue. Yes, she did make totally amazing dolls! And yes, there are times when it still hurts. I miss Shonna.

  6. This was written so beautifully... it was so sad, so sad but you did find the golden lining. I'm so sorry about the loss of your friend.

    1. Thank you, KB. I know you know how it feels to lose someone you love to cancer.


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