A Quilt as a Recovery Symbol

Sue Bergeson Health Guide
  • I have long enjoyed the beauty of handmade items. I tend to be moved more by functional art--stuff you can use like pottery or glass--than by any other form of art. So, it's no wonder that quilts have caught my eye for years. Since I became president of DBSA, I have decked the halls of our workspace with fiber art ranging from large batik quilts to small ribbon-and-wire lamp pulls. Right over my desk is a large bright, jewel-toned quilt with circles, squares and triangles, all artfully sewn together into a work entitled "Emancipation." Something about it sings to my heart during the worst of days.

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    My sister-in-law, Brenda, is a doctor, and she has taught me a lot about life on the other side of the desk. Her sister, Becky, is a nurse--and a master quilter.


    Huh. Funny how the circle goes around, isn't it? The connection gets tighter too.


    One day, Becky pointed out an article in her nursing journal to her doctor-sister, Brenda. It was about a stunningly beautiful young woman named Rebecca who took her life. Well, Rebecca, as it turns out, had volunteered with DBSA before her friends discouraged her saying, "You don't want people to know you have THAT illness." After Rebecca took her life, her family was devastated and turned to DBSA to see what they could do for the rest of us struggling and in pain. And so began DBSA's first fundraising event, Rebecca's Dream, held in Chicago on the first Saturday of November each year. (For more about Rebecca and the event she inspired, visit www.RebeccasDream.org.)


    Brenda now works part-time for DBSA, and Becky, the nurse, now volunteers for us. And Becky, the master quilter, has made a quilt to be auctioned off at Rebecca's Dream. I have attached a few pictures of the quilt being made--one with Becky and one with my new nephew sitting on top of the quilt.


    Becky draws a connection between quilting and recovery:


    "When I make a quilt, I always have a plan, but just like life/goals, sometimes the plan changes along the way. I was going to make the quilt twin-size, but I think it now measures for a queen-sized bed. I don't know what happened--it just grew and grew! I had more fabric than I originally thought, and I used some batik scraps from other quilt projects. It really makes a difference if you can identify all of your resources and realize all of your possibilities. Hmm ... I think that sounds like recovery. I put in all the crazy, wild and ugly pieces--can you tell? It's like life. I think it's really wonderful so far."


    Woman and DBSA Quilt


    Following a similar theme, I wrote the following a couple of years ago for a speech my then-boss made. It's my favorite piece of writing to date:


    "Sometimes we think our lives are ragged ruins--that we are throwaway people--damaged, worthless and unbeautiful in every way. But, you know, a quilt is made with throwaway scraps. With care and artistry, they are fashioned into something unique, much stronger than a simple whole piece of cloth and incredibly beautiful. And that, I assert, is who we really are. Despite the ragged ruin we have experienced, we can become stitched whole and new. We empower each other to grasp this hope and to believe in this beauty."


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    Have you had something in your life, like my quilt theme, that keeps popping up again and again? Or an image that speaks to your journey? I would enjoy hearing about it.


    Baby and DBSA Quilt

Published On: September 19, 2007