Once we decided to donate the quilts locally instead of sending them off somewhere, I stalled a little bit. I wasn't sure how to start or how to explain or how these heroes would react to my approach. My only real contact with a war hero is with my father-in-law, who so adamantly wants to ignore his service that he had my mother-in-law remove his medals from the memory quilt I made him.
But my friend, Melissa, has a brother whom we prayed for a LOT while he was twice deployed to Iraq. I approached Melissa, explained the project, and let her pave the way. I then realized that her father, Donn Fryman, was also a veteran, and I could possibly ease some of the nervousness by presenting them together. In addition to his service for our country, Donn is now fighting another battle - against liver cancer.
Melissa's brother, Marc, arrived home for a Christmas visit, and the family graciously invited me to interrupt their precious time together. I wasn't sure exactly what to say or do, but was immediately put at ease when Donn got up from where he was resting on the couch to wrap me in a big welcoming hug.
I had brought six of the quilts with me so that they would have a choice without being too overwhelmed. As we started to unfold them, Donn said, "I like that blue one." He was only looking at the back - it hadn't even been opened yet! I told him he could have whichever one he wanted, but to look at them all.
I told him that he got to pick first, and "that blue one" was his. As I laid it across him, I realized that it already had a label. (It's the only one that does - I need to add those!) Donn had picked Janie's quilt, and I knew it wasn't just the color that made Donn choose this quilt.
You see, Janie is a cancer survivor. She's gone a few rounds with the beast and is still standing - and quilting. She's also a prolific quilter who donates virtually all of her current work to charity. She's one of the most generous and optimistic people I know, and I feel certain that Donn felt the energy and love in that blue quilt radiating out to him.
|Donn and his wife, Kitty, reading the label and message from Janie|
|LCDR Donn Fryman with his Quilt of Valor|
Kristin picked up another blue one, but realized that Marc had his eye on Jane's yellow quilt. She told him to take the one he loved, not to worry about how it looked with the house. She said, "This is about you, not me." And right in that sentence I heard the sacrifice of every military family. I cannot imagine the anguish she's been through as he's flown over Iraq and Bosnia, following his dream of being a pilot. Melissa put her arm around Kristin and said, "No, you're just the one who gets left behind." The ripples of pride mixed with fear around every brave service member spread far and wide, and you could feel it right there in that room.
Marc got his yellow quilt. I thanked them all for letting me take pictures, but it wasn't until I got home that I realized, in my nervousness, I had forgotten the one thing I knew I had to say. "Thank you for your service!" So I had to send an email. How embarrassing!
|LCDR Marc Fryman and Kristin Fryman with their Quilt of Valor|
I hope you feel the joy of giving this week.