Can’t Get Enough Reading

Chapter reading together was over, long over.

I peeked in to say one last goodnight.

Reading by flashlight.

Just wonderful.

Jennie

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Milly – The Epilogue


This card was passed out at the memorial service.

It’s an odd thing to say that a eulogy was inspirational.  Yet for Milly, how could it be anything less?  And, it’s unusual to laugh out loud at the words the minister says about someone who is deceased.  But again, when it comes to Milly…

It happened like this:

Milly’s funeral, a memorial service, was held in an old New England church – 250 years old to be exact – in pouring rain and humidity that felt like I was sitting in the rain.  My husband and I arrived quite early, only to discover everyone else had the same idea.  The church was packed.  Sardines in a sauna.  The minister was a young man who didn’t know Milly well.  He began by telling the congregation of his first meeting with Milly.

“Where’s my quilt?” Milly asked me.  I’ve had plenty of odd questions, but that one took the cake.  Here I was, new to the church, and this woman comes right up to me and asks about her quilt.  What quilt?

Everyone is laughing!  And the minister continues.

You see, Milly had made a huge quilt for the 250th anniversary of the church.  I had no idea, but Milly told me all about it.  And, where was it?  After months of searching, the quilt was found tucked away in a box during renovations.  We found her quilt four days after she died.  It now hangs again.

I look around and see the faces of many quilters and friends.  Milly is at peace.  Be sad if you must, but she would want you to celebrate her life.  She is at peace.

Peace!  Of course.  No wonder the Peace Quilts we made together are wonderful.  That was Milly.  Yup!

A church that was full of quilters knew the story he told.  I didn’t.  After all, my time with Milly was only in the last ten years.  I looked around and thought of all the experiences and quilting she, and they, must have had.  I felt like a little girl at Thanksgiving listening to all the stories the grown-ups told.  And so, I listened.

Milly’s son gave the eulogy.  He pointed out two quilts displayed in front of the alter alongside all the flowers.  One was the first quilt he had as a child.  The other was a recent one.

Mom made it this year, and I asked her if I could have it.  I’ve never asked her for a quilt.  She was so happy.  So now I have two, one from the beginning of my life, and one from the end of hers.

When Mom first became sick and was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital, I spent that night with her.  She told me story after story, things I’d never known.  She was happy.  Afterwards, she had no recollection of that night nor the stories she had told.

I had witnessed her soul.

My mother can be described in one word. Love.

Yes, she can.

Jennie

Posted in art, Death and dying, Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, Inspiration, Love, Peace, quilting, storytelling, wonder | Tagged , , , , , | 35 Comments

One Dollar and Eleven Cents

A story to make you feel good. Yes, there are miracles.

Good Time Stories

pexels-photo-164661.jpeg Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Every once in a while, I come across a story that renews my faith in miracles. The following true story is an example of how miracles just “don’t happen” but come from a higher being.

Tess was a precocious eight-year-old when she heard her Mom and Dad talking about her little brother, Andrew. All she knew was that he was very sick and they were completely out of money. They were moving to an apartment complex next month because Daddy didn’t have the money for the doctor bills and their house.

Only a very costly surgery could save him now and it was looking like there was no one to loan them the money. She heard Daddy say to her tearful Mother with whispered desperation,

“Only a miracle can save him now.”

Tess went to her bedroom and pulled a glass jelly jar from its…

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The Legacy of Milly, Part 10 – The Final Curtain

In Part 9, Milly continued her visits to school.  The children and Gloria were always thrilled when it was a ‘Milly day’.  At last, after years of quilts that went away to places of honor, Milly made a quilt, “Our Towns” that hangs at school.  Declining health continued, yet I summoned the courage to ask Milly to make another Peace Quilt.  She was thrilled, and with her renewed energy and enthusiasm, we were off on another adventure.

Part 10 – The Final Curtain.

“Lets make the image with children and their family looking out a big window at their images of peace.”  Milly’s idea was brilliant, and that’s exactly what we did.  Honestly, that quilt with butterfly wings that moved, real chains for swings, raised and puffy hearts, and striking colors and images, was Milly’s best.  It was her crowning glory.

And so, the question of where to hang the quilt lingered… until an old friend and past parent whose child was part of the first Peace Quilt said it should hang at the White House.  “The world needs peace more today than ever” she said.  Yes.  And it needs to hang at our own White House, the State House.  Of course it does!  The White House may take years to approve and accept the quilt.  I wasn’t sure if Milly had years.  The Massachusetts State House was perfect.  Milly thought so, too.

There were ladders to climb and hoops to go through just to make a contact, someone who would listen to my story, Milly’s story.  And one day at school our secretary burst into my classroom to tell me the State House was on the phone and wanted to talk with me.  An hour later I was emailing photos of the sketch and the quilt.  It was love at first sight, and the wheels were moving.  I couldn’t believe how many layers of people and agencies had to approve (and like) the quilt AND the idea of it hanging at the State House.

“Is there a spot for special artifacts?” I asked.

“Yes, but it’s out of the way.  The quilt wouldn’t be visible to many people.  Wait!  There is a bare wall at the entrance of the building.  I’ve been trying to find the right thing to hang there.  Everyone who enters the State House would see this quilt.  Everyone.  What do you think?”

What do I think?!  I think that would be awesome – and I choose that word in it’s original context.  The world needs more peace, and what is better than peace through the eyes of young children seen by all?

“I think that would be wonderful.  Just perfect.”

In the meantime, we made a Peace Book.  Children illustrated all their ideas that are depicted in the quilt and wrote the words.  One of the best peace books, ever!

We read this book over and over.  Children looked through it to find their favorite page and tell others about peace.  The book cemented the quilt.  A copy remains out front at school for families and children to read.  And, it continues to be well loved.

“Jennie, everything is all set.”  At last!  “When would you like to deliver the quilt?  We’d like to have a ceremony with children and families, and of course Milly.  The Governor is planning to attend.”

What!  The Governor of Massachusetts?  Gulp!

“That is wonderful” I said, trying to keep a calm voice.  “Thank you”.

We picked a date in June and notified families.  Current families and past families were there at the big event, as this quilt was a few years in the making.  The director and assistant director of school were there.  Milly’s family was there.  My husband and I drove Milly into Boston, and we were escorted into the rotunda, a beautiful room with a curved sweeping staircase and stunning architecture.  History and beauty at its best.

Milly glowed.  She may have been wheelchair bound, but her spirt rose up tall and proud.

The stage and seating was at the foot of the Grand Staircase.  I was prepped by a staff member as to what would happen.  The Governor and the Lieutenant Governor would make an entrance from the back, then I would give opening remarks and read the Peace Book, then the Governor would speak, and finally the quilt would be presented.

You can do this, Jennie.

When Governor Baker made his entrance we shook hands and chatted, and he scanned the room for Milly.  When he saw her he stepped forward, then dropped to his knees and held her hands.  They whispered and smiled like two long-lost friends.  Everyone stood to watch; you could have heard a pin drop.  Not a dry eye in the house.


This was Milly’s finest moment.

And the ceremony began.  I had a microphone.  That was fine until I had to hold the book while reading.  The Governor hopped up, took the book out of my hands, and said, “Here. Let me hold the book while you read.”  And he did.  And I did.

I barely recall the words I said, yet I clearly remember the Governor’s speech and his words.  “Children learn hate” he said.  He talked about the importance of peace and children’s visions, much like the image of the quilt.  The quilt was presented and displayed for everyone to see.

And then the Governor spontaneously asked all the children to sit with him on the steps of the Grand Staircase.  What a great idea!

Milly took with her treasured memories of a lifetime, back to the nursing home, and displayed these photos for everyone to see.  In typical Milly humor, she would say to all who asked her who was that man kneeling, “Oh, that’s just the Governor.”  On all of my visits to see her the following year – she was now too sick and unable to come to school – there was always a new story of someone asking her about the quilt and the State House.  We laughed.  We always laughed.  It’s what friends do.

And then her granddaughter called.  The Call.  Milly had a week or two to live.  Hopefully.  I went to see her right away, and as soon as she saw my face, she said three sentences to me, “Jennie, I’m 88 years old.  I’ve lived a wonderful life.  What else is there?”  Yes, Milly!

I went back to school and made videos of the children singing Milly’s favorite songs.  I went to the nursing home a few days later to show her, sat on a chair right beside her bed, and we played the videos over and over again on my iPad.  Oh, how she loved seeing the children and hearing the songs.  As we watched and listened, I rubbed her arm and we both smiled.  A lot.

“Milly, remember all the adventures we’ve had together?  I remember that car ride to Philadelphia.  You were hilarious.  We had the best time.  Milly, what do you remember?”

And Milly proceeded to tell the story of the Command Coin being pressed into her hand at the Fisher House.  That was her big memory over the years.  We continued to reminisce.  There were no tears.  Milly wouldn’t have had it any other way.

The following day I called, and her granddaughter answered her phone.  Milly would probably die that night.  I wasn’t about to wait, I left immediately to see her.  I needed, wanted to say goodbye.  I was driving like a crazy person to get there.  And the most remarkable thing happened.  When I was about five minutes away, I was struck with an enormous wave of peace.  It was the most wonderful feeling of goodness.

I was too late.  Milly had died five minutes before I got there – the same time that the wave of peace struck me.  She was telling me goodbye in her happy way.  And so Milly, I say goodbye to you in my happy way:

Love, Jennie

Posted in art, books, Death and dying, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Family, Imagination, Inspiration, Kindness, Love, Peace, quilting, Teaching young children, The Arts, wonder, young children | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 87 Comments

The Legacy of Milly, Part 9

In Part 8, Milly and the children were guests of honor at the one-year anniversary of the Boston Fisher House.  With a full crowd in attendance, including members of the Fisher family, we presented the God Bless America quilt.  And, a Command (Challenge) Coin was pressed into Milly’s hand.  Shortly thereafter Milly became sick.

Part 9

The following year Milly made many trips to school, playing with children.  Gloria was always thrilled to see her BFF.

Milly taught the children how to sew, using plastic needles and yarn on cardboard punched with holes.  She was the queen of Go Fish and Bingo.  Every Milly visit was a very good day at school.  Often the children made things for Milly.  We were in the middle of learning about kings and queens, and children wanted to make Milly her own crown.

Our director had always wanted a Milly quilt at school.  Well, everyone did.  And so, Milly and the children designed a beautiful quilt that had everything important to the children- our school, the playground, rail trail, library, Johnson’s ice cream, our school’s Peace Pole and dove, on and on.

The quilt took a good part of the school year to make.  Children especially loved picking and adding buttons as windows in the houses.  The following fall the quilt was ready.  It is called “Our Towns.”  We had a lovely celebration at school!  The quilt hangs ‘front and center’ in the main hallway at school.

And that year we welcomed a new baby guinea pig, Ella the Fella.  He brought so much love and kindness to the children.  Things started to grow yet again when we learned a new song, “Bells of Peace.”  This song became the hit of the year and continues to be a favorite to this day.  Then there was “From the Seed in the Ground”, another wonderful song.  That school year seemed to be filled with extra joy, giving, and caring.  It felt good.

Peace was creeping in again…

Every May my husband and I take Milly to her favorite restaurant for her birthday dinner.  Milly’s classroom visits had dwindled, as she was now getting dialysis three times a week, and walking was very difficult for her.  Asking her to do more at school was, well, nervy at best.  After a (large) glass of wine, I summoned up my courage.

“Milly, remember the Peace Quilt?  Wasn’t that one of the best?”

Milly smiled.  “Yes, it was.”

So, I just plunged right in and said it.  “The children absolutely love peace.  This past year it has been big.  Really big.  Milly, I want us to make another Peace Quilt.  What do you think?  Can we do this again?”  I think I ordered another glass of wine.

Milly never hesitated.  She said, “I think that would be wonderful.  I’d love to!”

Here we go again!

Milly’s first visit in the fall was nothing short of wonderful.  She arrived wearing a costume.  And she gave the costume to Gloria.  That was fun.  And, ‘so Milly’!

Then we went to work!  Children brainstormed their ideas.  Milly had been listening carefully.  The wheels were turning in her head.  Suddenly, she had an epiphany!  It was the best idea of all:

“These images of peace are seen through the eyes of children.  Why not make the quilt showing children and their family looking outside, through a window, at all these images?”

Brillant!  And, just perfect.  This was our sketch:

Three children and their family looking at dancing, reading, playing, the ocean, a new baby, hearts falling from a tree, butterflies…

Milly did her magic with the children.  Every little thing was a work of art.  The little girl’s pony tail was 3-D, the hearts – every one – were puffy and raised, the swings were made with real, tiny chains, the butterfly wings actually flew.  And at every visit the children hovered, watching in fascination, as their ideas came to life.  It was a wonder!


The quilt was finished at last.

But things were far from over.  I bumped into a past parent whose child had been part of the first Peace Quilt.  She knew nothing of the new quilt.  The conversation went something like this:

“Hi, Jennie!  Have you made any more quilts with Milly?  I’ll never forget going to Philadelphia with the Peace Quilt.  We still talk about that.  It was amazing.”

So I told her about Milly and the quilts we had made together.

“Rosanna, we have just made another Peace Quilt!  It is stunning, with children and family looking out a window at Peace.”

“Another one?  Wow!  Jennie, I told you before that the first one needed to go to the White House. That’s really what needs to happen with the new one.  The world needs peace now more than ever.”

And the lightbulb went off!  Oh, did it ever!  I knew where this quilt needed to be.  Not the White House.  Better!  Stayed tuned for Part 10, the grand finalé.

Jennie

Posted in art, Early Education, Gloria, Imagination, Inspiration, Kindness, Love, Peace, quilting, Singing, Teaching young children, The Arts, wonder | Tagged , , , , , , | 58 Comments

Interview with Jennie Fitzkee from “A Teacher’s Reflections” — Esme Salon

Get your cup of coffee, then meet Jennie from A Teacher’s Reflections and enjoy the Interview with Jennie Fitzkee from “A Teacher’s Reflections” All about your BLOG: Tell us about you lovely BLOG. 37 more words

via Interview with Jennie Fitzkee from “A Teacher’s Reflections” — Esme Salon

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Storms and Rainbows

A violent thunderstorm this evening brought

 crackling lightening and booming thunder.

All in a moment, two rainbows appeared.

And then the power of one intensified and literally glowed.

Nature is a wonder.

“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” -Roald Dahl-

Jennie

Posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Imagination, Inspiration, Mother Nature, Nature, wonder | Tagged , , , , | 51 Comments