My friend Joan's husband came to our door on a dark night two days before my birthday. He had called to say he was dropping something off. We were all in pajamas, watching a movie with the girls and planning to go to bed shortly. We opened the door to find him on the porch with a plate of blueberry corn muffins. For my birthday, he said, since I can't eat cake. Joan would have done that for me. In fact, the muffins were arranged on a plate I recognized. It was the same dish pattern I owned years ago, and Joan and I had laughed about having identical dishes. Then her husband handed me a bag of oolong tea he bought in Chinatown, the same kind of tea Joan gave me last year. I'm almost out. I so wish she were here to enjoy some tea with me. He also handed me some papers, upcoming events and information about things I might be interested in. Joan always used to save things like that. She would attach little sticky notes with my name on them.
He runs back to his car and comes in with a large tote bag. He said Joan told him to give it to me. It is her unfinished quilt. Last year we took a quilt class together to learn to make a unique regional design. I finished my quilt and gave it to Liana in the spring. Joan never completed hers. She was a perfectionist and worked with precision, not throwing things together hastily like I tend to do.
I shake my head no. No, I cannot keep Joan's quilt. She told me while she was sick that she hoped for some time to work on it. She never got that time. The quilt is not mine. I am stunned and grateful, but no. Then I told her husband I would finish it and give it back to him. Maybe he would find comfort in sleeping beneath the soft covering of colors his wife had chosen and skillfully crafted.
After he leaves I am overwhelmed with the gifts. I think of the profound mystery of marriage, the oneness Joan and her husband knew. He, acting in her place, bringing her presence here to my home. Her loss rips my heart once more. I miss my friend. I cannot fathom her husband's pain. I know what Joan would want me to do with this quilt. Give it back. I open the bag and unfold the partially pieced top. It is exquisite. I will not do it justice, me with clumsy hands. I see her small notes to herself, labels for the blocks and rows. She so much wanted to finish this work of art. I cannot look at it on this night.
The next day I unpack her bag with all the notes, her tools, and the careful squares. She is so organized that the quilt will not be hard to finish. I won't have to choose colors she might not have liked. The pieces are already there. I just need to sew them together--with the greatest of care. That would please her. I will do it for Joan. Hopefully, when it is once again in her home where it belongs, her quilt will continally remind her husband of Joan's deep love for him.