Today is a bittersweet day filled with memories of one of the most important ladies in my life. You see, today would have been her 72nd birthday. I got to really know my dad’s older sister after I had already reached adulthood. My Aunt Mary Ellen was a beautiful woman who faced a very rough beginning to her life but was able to rise above those disparaging, dark days. She found strength, happiness, love and had a beautiful family who gave her grandchildren to love and care for.
When my parents split, my Aunt Mary wrote me letters, called me and visited often. She helped me work through a lot of issues and we became quite close. Her letters were filled with encouragement. She loved art, reading, quilting and cooking. I discovered that we shared similar handwriting and loved many of the same fiction authors. At one point we were mailing books back and forth to each other every week! Then we’d call each other and talk about them.
Then one day, a big box arrived at my door. It was as light as a feather. I shook it and there wasn’t a sound. My excitement grew because it came totally unannounced. Opening it, I discovered a beautiful surprise inside. A hand-stitched lap quilt with an extra special tag sewn into the corner. It was my birthday gift. And little did I know how lucky a girl I was to receive this beautiful gift!
When I look at each stitch it makes me think of the hours she spent sitting there just sewing this, for me, stitch by stitch, block by block.
She knew I loved the color blue, so she made sure to get it on my quilt many times! Whether in a heart or in a flower, it was there…
Even the border has hearts stitched into it! I really loved my Aunt and this is one way to show she loved me!
She tacked on this sweet handmade tag. All I could do was smile when I saw her inscription, “My favorite niece.”
My heart broke when, in early September 2009, Aunt Mary Ellen was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a very aggressive brain tumor. For years she had suffered from severe migraine headaches. We never once dreamed that she would have to endure brain tumors. Sadly Aunt Mary passed away a few months later in 2002. She didn’t last a year after diagnosis. I can’t even begin to tell you how sad it was to say good-bye to my dear, sweet Aunt. I miss her so much. When I touch this quilt and think of all our conversations and letters and visits, it makes me smile. She is in my heart and the Heart Quilt is my living memory of her.
I never enjoyed the privilege of meeting Jeff’s Grandma Kemp. And from the stories he tells me of his childhood visits, she was an amazing woman. Mother to 10 children, this woman kept quite busy and from what Jeff tells me, was an awesome cook! In addition to raising her brood, she even had time to make quilts!
Southern born and bred, she was the epitome of Southern hospitality. Besides his mother, Grandma Kemp was the greatest women he ever knew. She raised her 10 children in a 2-bedroom house. She was the glue that held the family together. She had a large garden that helped feed her large family. This lovely lady hand-stitched a couple of quilts for my hubby. He says that wrapping up in one of these quilts is much like being held in her arms. It was a safe place to be.
See every little stitch of love in this section of blocks.
No matter which side you look at the stitches are evenly spaced.
Grandma Kemp loved all kinds of creatures and she had cats. Cats everywhere….and they all drove Grandpa crazy! So I know I would have loved her!
Grandma never missed a Sunday by the radio listening to the reading of the obituaries. And she knew every single one of them. Grandma Kemp has been gone for a while, but memories of her still hold strong. My Jeff smiles every time he speaks of her.
This sweet little lady is Jeff’s aunt. Aunt Lucille is very special to us. Jeff tells me countless stories of their camping adventures at Cades Cove when he was a kid. His family, Aunt Lucille and her family and other aunts and uncles would join them and spend many happy days camping together, watching the wildlife at The Cove and all the mishaps of trips to the emergency room not too far away. From broken bones to bad bruises there are many memories for Jeff. Jeff’s favorite signs are “Now Entering Cades Cove” and “B19.” He tells me about all the times they would all fight to be first out of the car to check the Ranger Station bulletin board to see which campsite they were assigned to.
Even though she’s getting up in years, dear, sweet Aunt Lucille came to our wedding. We were ecstatic to have her there and are so thankful to be able to spend some time visiting her.
As you can see, she is quite a talented crochet-er. She lovingly made these beautiful afghans for Jeff, her August baby.
Aunt Lucille and Mom share a special relationship. It’s so special that when she and her husband John were young marrieds and Mom and Dad were newly married, they joined together and bought a television.
The funny part of this story is that Mom and Dad lived in Atlanta and John and Lucille lived in Asheville. Mom and Dad would have the TV one week and then they’d drive it to John and Lucille’s who would have the TV for a week! Then John and Lucille would drive it back to them!
This week leads up to Mother’s Day and we couldn’t help but think of these women who have played an important part of shaping our lives.
The creative talent they had/have has carried over into our lives as well!
We don’t get to travel as much as we’d like to with our busy schedules, but we still try to keep up with Aunt Lucille when we can.
Aunt Mary and Grandma Kemp are gone and Aunt Lucille may live far away from us, but each one of these ladies have given us a gift that will forever live in our hearts.