Monday, July 29, 2013

Danny's Project

It has taken me a full year to finish this commemorative. If you were  reading this blog  around a year ago, you may remember that my sweet nephew, Danny, had the illness of schizophrenia take his life. It changed him so hard and so fast. All of his life he was his momma's baby and a sweet, sweet boy. Then about the age of 20, things started changing, and life for him and his family became something they never predicted, expected, or deserved. I am not going to relive those sorrows but only want to commemorate the memories of his sweetness in a younger time and his love of the outdoors.

After Danny's funeral my brother and his wife called me aside and asked me to do them a favor. Could I make something beautiful to commemorate his life out of his favorite jacket? Of course I said yes and prayed for the guidance to do justice to their request and honor their son. In a box by mail came an old brown hoodie with a striped knit lining and elastic waistband and cuffs. It smelled like Danny, a combination of his beloved dog and cigarettes with probably a bit of fish bait thrown in. I couldn't cut it. It went back in the box. It was too much. My mind became busy with ways to use the jacket but I just couldn't face it. Then about two months into it I made myself start the project. First I washed the jacket and then put my feelings aside. I had promised and I needed to honor that promise.

I had loads of ideas and tried lots of techniques. You all know I am the big sampler. Bit by bit the work evolved. Sometimes I couldn't face it but most times I knew what I had to and wanted so much to do. Would they like it? Would it be what they wanted? Would they be disappointed? How could I make it about him? It was totally intimidating but as it progressed I became more excited and more creative. Danny loved the outdoors. He was passionate about fishing, often with his big brothers and in one of the many lakes where they live. I had lived nearby growing up and knew right where his favorite fishing holes were. I tried to mimic them with their glassy rippling waters and the tall pines and maples that were their circumference. What you see are my efforts. I will go through a bit of what I did to make this happen.  Please ignore the creases from the required bubble wrapping for travel. It all ironed out beautifully and flat.


The water was randomly cut strips of 100% cotton. Some were actually the wrong sides of prints. The pieces were laid down on a muslin backing and appliqued raw edge. The whole lake was covered with tulle and then topstitched to secure it all down. From there I could build out the landscape and sky.
This is the bottom right corner with my signature. The trees and shrubs are also raw edge, some of them the lining from his jacket, and again topped with tulle and stitched on the edge to secure. The only actual quilted area is the border. This was not an effort to make a quilt but more of a wall hanging.

The sunset was felted onto a pale yellow piece of  cotton. I used all sorts of colors of roving.  The tree trunk you see on the left is the elastic waistband of the jacket. The far gray mountains are jacket and the beach edges are the lining.


Dear cyber friend, Martha Broyles of Southern Matriarch, kindly let me hijack a poem she found to commemorate the loss of a young one on her blog. Neither of us know the original author unfortunately. I printed it on grey organza, wanting an ethereal effect. It required the dark underlay to bring out the black print, sort of the opposite that you would think would work. Again that raw edge applique which I think is a more masculine touch.
 I also put a label on the back with a bit more info and the poem written out again more clearly.


Saturday while we were on Cape Cod I presented the wall hanging to his parents. They had no idea of what I had made for them. It was a very emotional moment for all of us there but when I saw my brother sitting stoically in all his handsomeness with tears rolling down his face I knew I had done OK. Some things in life you just gotta do.........Bunny

42 comments:

  1. What a wonderful tribute. The love shines through. You're a wonderful Aunt and sister!

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  2. It is just incredible, Bunny! You certainly did justice to his memory as I knew you would.

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  3. Very well done! I'm sure it was a very difficult time for you but your strength and artistic drive got you through it.

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  4. Bunny, that is heart-breaking and beautiful.
    I have a friend whose son also experienced a sudden onset of schizophrenia and it is very intense.
    My deepest condolences to you and your family.

    Well done, well done.

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  5. A beautiful touching memorial for your nephew. So much love is in every stitch of that wall hanging. My son in law's first cousin is going through all the terror of schizophrenia now. A bright wonderful young man has just disappeared. It's so awful for the entire family. Praying for your families healing. Thank you for sharing such a personal journey.

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  6. Bunny, you rose to the challenge and soared way above. I lost a childhood sweetheart to the same disease, as well as a schoolmate, both in their early twenties. It is a really rough, hard disease, made more terrible by the way the person you know and love leaves when the body is still strong.

    This piece is beautiful and just perfect. How wonderful for the parents to have a combined memory of their son, how much you treasure him, and your love for them as well. steph

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  7. You brought tears to my eyes. I am in the process of turning my brother-in-law's favorite sweatshirt into a lap throw for his widow, so I have a little idea of the emotion involved. However, there is a huge difference between a memorial for a man who lived a good, long life and died after a brief illness, and the same project for a young man snatched in the prime of his life by such a brutal, destructive illness. The way you have applied your creativity and love to every element of your design is a tribute to the man your nephew was and might have been.

    Thank you for sharing.

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  8. Wow, Bunny. It's a work of art, inspired, and so so touching. It's wonderful.

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  9. What a loving tribute. Very touching and beautifully made.

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  10. A beautiful tribute to your nephew. So much of his spirit--and yours--is evident in this.

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  11. What an incredible work, Bunny. This will be a family keepsake for generations to come and will keep Danny's spirit alive. You did good indeed!

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  12. What a beautiful gift and a lovely way to remember your nephew.

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  13. Oh Bunny that is so beautiful. I am crying for you, for your brother and his wife, for my nephew with schizophrenia - so far he survives, but it is hard - and for my beautiful eldest daughter whom I lost to cancer nearly three years ago. But as all of us who have lost a child know, though the heartbreak never heals the kind of care and love that you have shown for your nephew and his family does help and comfort. Thank you for sharing it with us. Anne

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  14. Oh Bunny that is so beautiful. I am crying for you, for your brother and his wife, for my nephew with schizophrenia - so far he survives, but it is hard - and for my beautiful eldest daughter whom I lost to cancer nearly three years ago. But as all of us who have lost a child know, though the heartbreak never heals the kind of care and love that you have shown for your nephew and his family does help and comfort. Thank you for sharing it with us. Anne

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  15. I can feel the grace and blessings you received in the doing and the thinking and the planning of this perfect tribute to your nephew. Our lives here can be so short but the touch people can leave with us is forever. Only you could have turned a much loved jacket into such a fitting memorial to his spirit. Thank you for sharing such a difficult project and fitting poem. I too have tears in my eyes for you and your family and your loss.

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  16. What a magnificent treasure you've created to honor Danny's life! Bunny, I can't imagine anything nicer, truly.
    You did a wonderful job on it & I know his grieving parents will cherish it forever. BRAVO!!

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  17. this brought tears to my eyes reading it - I recall you saying you were going to create something and I am sure they already knew that it would be something wonderful.

    Love it, and more important they clearly did too.

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  18. Super job. An no easy task, emotionally or creatively. Working with elastic and knits and making the turn out well is a task. The parents of this boy will treasure that wall quilt forever.

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  19. This is my first visit to your blog, and I have tears streaming down my face and a huge lump in my throat. Truly, the most endearing, loving, generous tribute anyone could create. Thank you for sharing. I can feel the joy and pain in every stitch. Blessings to you and all those affected by the tragic loss of your nephew, Oh Danny Boy . . .

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  20. What a beautiful commemorative, Bunny. I know his parents will cherish it with their memories of Danny. God Bless.
    Janet

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  21. Thank you for sharing the results of your hard work through your grief and of your love for Danny and his family. The hanging is beautiful, but made even more so by your care and love.

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  22. Oh, my. Speechless. You did a phenomenal job, it's absolutely beautiful. I'm so sorry for your loss, and how difficult it had to be to sew, and reflect, and do his memory justice. You amaze me, but at the same time, I've come to know that your work is always breathtaking.

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  23. So beautiful. what a great tribute to a young life.

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  24. Dear Darling Friend,

    I hope it is ok to call you Friend. We have never met, but one day in the not too distant future I hope that we can meet.

    We thank God for those special people that touch our lives, and honour us, by sharing personal moments in their lives which mean the world to them.
    So, dearest Bunny, all of us that value you as our admired and valued sewingsister, also value you for the wonderful person that you are.

    It is totally moving to read about your nephew, your brother and his wife and what you have all gone through.

    Your work which will be much loved speaks volumes to their hearts and ours.

    I am sure a day never goes by without you missing such a wonderful young man, and you have made us all very priviledged to share with you.

    May God Bless you all, and I am sure there is a wonderful beaming Angel looking down on you each and every day.

    With much love and sincere wishes.
    Marysia.xx I can't stop crying......................so touching and humbling.xx Love you.

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  25. What a beautiful way to commemorate a life. Danny's family has something beautiful made out of a much loved item. Lovely.

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  26. A good friend of mine has a son who has schizophrenia. It all happened about the same age as your nephew. He has found a good place to be, a home in Arkansas, but it has had such a tremendous affect on the family.
    What a lovely way to commemorate the life of your nephew. Thank you for sharing it with all of us and I hope you can feel my hug. I wish I were there in person, but for now a virtual hug will need to suffice:)

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  27. A true gift from the heart, and a blessing to many in numerous ways.

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  28. What a wonderful gift you've given his grieving parents. You're a lovely Auntie.

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  29. Thanks for sharing this monumental creation. Tough assignment with beautiful outcomes.

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  30. I am quite sure you have done exactly the right thing. It is perfect. It takes my breath away.

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  31. What a thought-filled and love infused gift from your heart. It is incredibly beautiful. I am so sorry for your loss.

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  32. Such a difficult project to complete,but so beautiful! Can you elaborate on how you did the label?

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    1. I ironed poly organdy to freezer paper and ran it through the printer. The organdy was washed and it was a laser printer. I printed on the fabric by using a Word document I had made of the poem.

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  33. Bunny, way back when you first took on this project, I was interested in seeing and reading about the final result. You have outdone yourself. This will surely bring consolation and peace to Danny's family. They are blessed to have you in their lives. Thank you so much for sharing this most special project with us.

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  34. Bunny, What a beautiful blessing you have given us all. I appreciate your honesty and trust in sharing these very personal feelings. Love abides in all your work. Thank you, Darby Logan

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  35. Your work and words moved me to tears. I lost a friend from college (also to schizophrenia; also by suicide) many years ago, too. I still think of him often. My condolences to your family.

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