Tuesday, July 26, 2016

quilted hearts: mentoring for the long haul

Dear Hazel,

I wasn't ready yet for you to go.
In your own unassuming way, you "held the ropes" for us.

It's not just that I loved you. You loved me back, too.

I bumbled into your sewing circle in the church basement, a young mom full of zeal. Mentoring was what I wanted most, advice for how to raise children, how to make my way in the world. Since I was 40 years younger than the next youngest member of the group, I thought it an ideal place to learn. I prodded, asking questions, seeking wisdom. The women hunched over the quilt looked at each other and shrugged. I think you answered first, Hazel. You said something like "Don't ask us! We're no experts!"

It bothered me then, your reticence to pass along what you had learned. I didn't realize that your answer really was an answer, the answer I needed most—that all of us muddle through the best we can and figure things out as we go, and that what we discover along the way is that there's no single right way of doing things, and no guarantees that what worked for you will work for me.

When I was silent long enough, swallowing my questions and slowing my pace, the conversation drifted back to its natural cadences—TV shows and recipes, small town news and medical reports and silences. These conversations held no instant magic, but I see now that each was another quilting thread, connecting hearts as thread joins layers of fabric stitch after stitch.

Hazel (center), the last time I saw her (photo: C Imes)
Now that you're gone, the fabric is torn and so is my heart.

Quilting is slow work, and so are relationships. Your faithfulness over the long haul created something beautiful. We could always count on you to keep the conversation moving. Although you stopped short of giving advice, you gave me something even more important—you genuinely cared about me and my journey. I know because your face would light up when I entered the room. This, too, was a kind of mentoring.

You were there when Eliana cruised around underneath the quilt frame, her bald head a traveling bump. You were there when we sold our things and said our farewells, headed to the Philippines. You were there when we returned, broken and bleeding. You said farewell again when we moved across the country. And you were always there when we came home and I showed up unannounced at sewing. Every time the group was smaller, as friends went on ahead -- Elizabeth, Vesta, Edna, Ruth, Bertha, Alice -- but I could count on you to be there.

How I wish your chair didn't stand empty now! I'm afraid if I take my place around the quilt again my tears will make a mess of it. I didn't realize how much you meant to me until it was too late to tell you.

I'd like to know how many quilts you stitched, how many dollars they fetched for the cause of world mission, how many lives were changed as a result. As meticulous as they are, the minutes of the Women's Missionary Society won't be able to tell me that. But I know that your faithful giving and serving has brought light and life to many others around the world, including mine.

So Thank You, Hazel.
You'll be sorely missed.

1 comment:

  1. Carmen, what perfect timing. A group of women young and old are meeting in my home this very evening to discuss mentoring. I am printing out a copy of your post for each of them. Hazel's example lives on, and so will yours, my friend.