In 2000 my late husband Larry Nyman died. The hole in my heart has healed… mostly. Larry died on one of those hot and muggy days in late August. The rest of that month passed in a blur of a funeral, a move and finding a new job. In late September, I began coming out of my fog. Today is an overcast cool day that had me reliving that grief I was feeling that fall.
Larry and I had been married less than 5 months when he had the stroke. Up until that time, I though that strokes were something that happened when you were old. Larry had only just turned 47. Who could have guessed! I was clueless.
After Larry died, I moved back to Michigan so I could be close to my family. In preparation for my move, I sorted through everything, choosing what to take and what to leave.
That, in itself, was trying. As I worked through sorting everything, I kept finding T-shirts. I found them everywhere in that house.
Larry had been involved with United States Masters Swimming and Sailing for years. He had T-shirts going back to the late 1970s! Those were the early days of T-shirts. And I kept finding T-shirts in odd places. It was weird, but after a time, I started enjoying the scavenger hunt for T-shirts. It made a tough job a little easier.
By the time I had everything sorted and packed, I had found nearly 200 T-shirts. I was dumb founded. I knew what to do with the T-shirt, but did not understand why they were stashed here, there and everywhere. I was a T-shirt quilt maker and Larry knew that. You would think that he would have been pulling them out to have me make him a quilt. That’s a mystery that went to the grave with Larry.
I had all these T-shirts and I was a T-shirt quilt maker. Now what? I had way too many for one or two large quilts. I had a lot of duplicate and triplicate T-shirts. And there was one T-shirt which I found 10 copies of. I figured out that this was one Larry had designed for a sailing regatta event.
Larry left a lot of holes in so many people’s hearts and lives. I started counting up close friends and family and discovered that there were 10 quilts that need to be made – one for each of the friends and family members.
I began with that one T-shirt of which I had 10. Then I sorted out the T-shirts into stacks that I labeled with each person’s name. I worked very hard to match up specific T-shirts with people who had participated with Larry in that or a similar event.
It was great getting to learn more about Larry through his T-shirts. When all the T-shirt blocks were divided up, I made the 10 quilts.
That first Christmas after Larry died, each of his 10 quilts made their way from Michigan back to Minnesota and landed under a Christmas tree of each of his friends. I am sure that there were empty holes that healed just a bit that day as his friends and family were able to wrap themselves up with a little bit of Larry.
If I had it to do all over again, I would have done one thing differently – I would have also made a T-shirt quilt for myself. After I packaged up and shipped all the T-shirt quilts, I regretted not having one for myself. I should have made 11 quilts.
If you would like to learn more about having a memorial quilt (or 10) made from your loved one’s T-shirts and/or clothing, consider downloading our Memorial Quilt Guide.
Andrea Funk is the inventor of T-shirt quilts made with multiple blocks sizes. The modern method of making T-shirt quilts. In 1992 she founded Too Cool T-shirt Quilts. Her life has been immersed in T-shirt quilts ever since.