Healing art

My brother Peter is a year younger than me and lives in Fairbanks, Alaska. On Feb. 3 he  was involved in a horrible car accident. He was entering the local highway, lost control of his car on a turn and sailed through a guardrail. He went airborne, hit a light pole and then fell 30 feet down an embankment next to the Chena River, which runs through the city.

            He was not speeding or drinking and was wearing his seat belt, which saved his life. Several witnesses called the accident in immediately and within several hours, emergency personnel had my brother out of the car and airlifted to Anchorage, where he underwent immediate brain surgery for severe blunt force trauma to the left side of his head.

            Today, nearly three weeks later, Peter sits in Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, where he continues to make a slow, but steady, recovery. While we won't know about the extent of any brain damage until he's fully able to speak (and he's still on a trach ventilator that prevents this), all signs indicate that he's doing great and there may be few, if any, permanent issues after rehab.

            So, what does this have to do with quilting? Within a day of getting this horrid call, I sidelined my work as editor of Quilter's Home magazine, and hopped on a plane to Alaska to be with my brother. We're tight, very tight, and the thought of losing him at the age of 42 was unbearable. Altogether, I spent eight days at Providence watching him breathe and encouraging him to heal and come back to us. He's got two little kids and was getting ready to propose to his girlfriend (I knew about it and then we found the ring he'd just bought her) so this was just heartbreaking on too many levels. He spent 16 days in the Adult Critical Care Unit and for most of the time that I was in Alaska I was in there with him.

            My sister, his girlfriend and I stayed in the residential hotel attached to Providen that is designed for patients' families. Pete's unit was on one side of the huge multi-block facility and the hotel was at the other end of the facility, which meant 10- to 15-minute walks between the two points through most of the hospital's buildings. And just guess what we saw during these daily treks through what is really a beautifully designed hospital? Quilts. Lots of quilts. And lots of photography, art and other examples of needlecrafts.

            Alaskans are big on quilting. Think about it: six to eight months of indoor-only weather gives one lots of time to master a hobby. Alaskans have created some incredible quilts and some of the most wallet-tempting shops I've ever found are in the Great White North. Here are just a couple of eye-candy glimpses of The Quilted Raven in downtown Anchorage.  


            The quilts warming the walls at Providence were mostly basic and comforting. A nine-patch and a simple wall-sized log cabin graced two different entryways. But this beauty, which I had the pleasure of passing several times a day, took my breath away.

            This Broken Lone Star features Alaskan images done in fusible applique. It was machine pieced and machine quilted, probably on a longarm. The words appliqued with bias-tape refer to Providence's mission statement. The maker(s) is not noted anywhere on the quilt.

            This quilt hangs right in front of one of the main doors to the hospital. When you walk through the sliding doors, it's on a hallway just several yards ahead. To see this wonderful, calming and familiar example of q-ness warmed my heart every day, as I'm guessing it was intended to.

            In the hospital's chapel, this striking wall quilt hangs behind the altar as a testament to the faith, love and hope that fill the hospital's halls.

            And a quilt of another kind, pieced together from sculpted wood panels, hangs in another prominent hallway.


And while it's not a quilt, this needlepoint tapestry, which I thought was a quilt until I came up close to it, floored me with its workmanship and scope.




        There's something so special about a quilt, something that in my insignificant opinion transcends most other crafts. A quilt serves the practical purpose of providing warmth and protection, but as we know, that purpose doesn't only have to be served by draping a quilt over a bed. This large wall quilt, while queen-sized, provides far more warmth and comfort for the many viewers passing through Providence's halls than it ever could on a bed.--Jake Finch


Anne said:

This is a very touching moment you have given us. My prayers to your brother. These quilts are amazing and one can only hope that we could reach this degree in our own life time.  Thank you for the pictures.

# March 8, 2011 6:36 PM

gini said:

thanks you so much for sharing.   i hope your brother's recovery continues

# March 8, 2011 11:37 PM

Nana said:

My prayers go out for your brother.  The quilts are breathe taking.  Thank you so much for sharing.  To only have a small portion of that talent would be a great gift.

# March 8, 2011 11:39 PM

rlgillette said:

I pray for your brothers complete recovery.  I was born in Anchorage, had both my children (now grown) right there in Providence Hospital.  It was very nice to see the quilts and artwork.  Thank you for sharing your touching story and the photos as well.  

# March 10, 2011 8:41 PM

Jane said:

Thanks for sharing your story.  I am so moved and hope your brother continues to make a complete recovery.  Such strong family members can only be helping him.

# March 16, 2011 9:08 PM