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by David Katz

Putting the Pieces Back Together by Eleanor Jones

Putting the Pieces Back Together
by Eleanor Jones

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
        the pocket of his faded bluejeans
            intricate embroidery spelling her name
                their high school graduation pictures
                    white buttons and lace from her wedding dress
                        Scouting badges and football team logos
                            poetry 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.


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