The National Donor Family Quilt offers families the
opportunity to create an 8-inch square honoring the life
of a loved one who was an organ or tissue donor. Over 1,000
families have already contributed squares. At the
Transplant Games, the quilt is on display at the donor family
events venue, with the many 70-square panels lining a corridor
where workshops and other gatherings take place.
Even from a distance you can tell that this is no ordinary
quilt. The materials range from cotton to leather; there
are ribbons, lace, and pieces of clothing; there are all
manner of items stitched, glued, or sewn to squares, including
medals, charms from bracelets, and tiny teddy bears. Viewing
the quilt is like peeking into the lives of hundreds of
people, all of whom gave the gift of life. For good reason,
boxes of Kleenex appear along the display area.
On Friday evening, over 100 donor families gathered
to pin new squares onto the Quilt. Each person or couple
or family came to the microphone and shared their story,
something about their loved one, or explained the symbolism
of their square. Each received warm applause, hugs, and
teary smiles. By the end of the evening, two panels the
size of king-size bedsheets were covered with these fabric
remembrances. I found it to be the most moving event of
the week, and stand in awe of all the donor families I met,
and those I didn't.
Having been torn and cut apart
you are never again the same, never really whole.
But slowly you gather the fragments:
her pale pink ruffles
of his faded bluejeans
embroidery spelling her name
high school graduation pictures
buttons and lace from her wedding dress
badges and football team logos
handwritten in black ink...
Gently your hands begin to stitch the pieces together
you try to make them fit once more.
Pieces born of individual loss, personal sorrow
sewn together by the common thread of humanity
create a quilt of solemn beauty.
If you want to see the quilt in person, various panels
travel the country throughout the year. Check the tour
dates to see when the Quilt is coming to you. Or you can
see much of the quilt online
at the National Kidney Foundation web site.