sewing

Bittersweet

McCalls 7817, ©1981

My brother died at age 59 from colon cancer. He has been gone for several years now, but there’s not a day goes by without me thinking of him. He was such a voice of wisdom. He just knew things, and knew when to listen and when to speak. To say that i miss him is a gross understatement.

He loved gardening. He studied landscaping, and he was good at it. His backyard in Seattle was a thing to behold, with blooms in every season and in every corner, arranged so beautifully it could’ve been in a magazine. His favorite flower was irises, especially purple.

After he died, I started noticing irises on days that I missed him particularly badly, or when I really, really wished I could talk to him about something. This was no fluke. It wasn’t that I just hadn’t noticed them before. They appeared. For example, the week of Thanksgiving, in the third week of November the year he died, I was having a really sad day. It had been a really hard day, and I was wishing that I could talk with him about it. Later, I opened Facebook, and one of my friends said “look what I saw at church today”, and lo and behold, there were purple irises blooming at my old church in Indiana in the third week of NOVEMBER. That just doesn’t happen here. They are a spring flower, and are gone by June. I smiled. Jeff was saying hello.

This continued to happen over the years, then one day I got a call. I had been having back problems that had gotten really severe, and they had finally done an MRI. The doctor called and said there was something there. They didn’t know what, because the MRI had only caught the bottom, but I needed to have another MRI done higher up, and immediately because it could be a bleed, or a tumor, or God knows what. I was driving home from work thinking about the impending MRI and wishing I could talk with my brother, because he would’ve calmed me down. I missed him so much at that moment.

I went to have the MRI done. They put me into a dressing room where I changed into the uber-stylish gown. They started walking me down the hall to the MRI room, when suddenly I realized that there was a painting of purple irises ahead of me. I looked around, and they were on each side of the hallway beside me too. It was like my brother was hugging me. I felt his presence so strongly, and I knew that no matter what, I was going to be ok. It still makes me cry to think about it.

I went on to be diagnosed with lymphoma, with a large tumor that was pressing on my spinal cord, as well as chest and abdominal tumors and one under one of my arms. I had surgery. I had radiation. I had two and a half years of immunotherapy to put my Stage III cancer into remission, but I never once wavered in knowing that everything would be fine. And it is. Though B-cell follicular lymphoma is never cured (it lurks), I rolled through all of my treatment with only a bit of fatigue, and now have zero evidence of disease. Thanks, Jeff. I couldn’t have done it without you.

So when I came across this pattern of a quilt of irises, I did what I do whenever I see his favorite flower and say “hi Jeff.” If it wasn’t uncut, I would probably try to make it, and Jeff would watch me from above and laugh at how hilariously bad my quilting skills are. But I’d also sleep under it every night so he could give me those hugs I miss so much.

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