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

About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
This entry was 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 and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

98 Responses to The Legacy of Milly, Part 10 – The Final Curtain

  1. Dan Antion says:

    This has been such a remarkable journey (series of journies) it’s really inspirational. You made a difference in s lot if lives, Jennie. The children will remember these quilts and the Pisces they took them for the rest of their lives.

  2. Ritu says:

    Oh Jennie. I’m literally sat here with eyes wet reading this ending. Milly was a wonderful person and you ensured her legs ybwill last for a long time. Heres hoping that feeling of peace stays with you 😍

  3. TanGental says:

    I can’t swallow .And the dog thinks I’m I’ll and wants to lick me better. That was a beautiful tribute to Milly the children and you too. Thanks for sharing that.

  4. Darlene says:

    This is an amazing post and such a perfect tribute to Milly. I understand the feeling of peace when a loved one passes over to the other side. It happened as I was driving to my dad’s bedside. I know the exact time and where I was on the road. I knew then that he was gone and I was too late. I also realized he wouldn’t have wanted me to there at that moment. The song is perfect. Bless you and Milly and all the children involved in this peace project. xo

    • Jennie says:

      I’m glad to know you experienced the same thing with your dad, Darlene. Like you, I will never forget the exact spot on the highway where that happened. I think we are among many. Lucky us! That song just does me in, and reminds me of Milly. Many thanks for reading and being part of the Milly journey. 🙂

  5. What a beautiful ending to this story. I’m so glad you and Millie were at peace with the end of her journey. Hard to see the keyboard, Jennie. Bless you and the children.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, John. Peace seemed to be there from beginning to end. I had a hard time seeing the keyboard, too. Your blessing is much appreciated.

  6. Opher says:

    What a wonderful tale and an equally wonderful ending.

  7. A wonderful finale Jennie and what an extraordinary woman, such a privilege to have known her and thanks for sharing her story. Her legacy lives on in all the children whose lives she touched.. Will put in the blogger daily tomorrow..beautifully told. xxx♥

  8. srbottch says:

    Jennie, such a wonderful story. Someday they will make a movie, a Hallmark movie, and I probably will get misty eyed, as I am now. Congratulations on your achievement with the kids and Millie. And such a wonderful chapter of the book of your life…

    • Jennie says:

      A Hallmark movie! Wouldn’t that be something. I’m so glad you enjoyed this last chapter. Writing the ending just flowed. Somehow my fingers knew what to type, even though some tears got in the way. And yes, it is a wonderful chapter in my life. Thank you, Steve. 😊

  9. Sue Vincent says:

    This series of post has been a truly beautiful tribute to Milly and the love she brought into the world, Jennie. Thank you for sharing her story with us.

  10. Ellen says:

    “Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts and we are never ever the same.” – Flavia Weedn. Milly’s footprints will remain on the hearts of everyone she touched. I have followed your lovely tribute to Milly as each part appeared, but waited until this last part to comment. I wanted to put all of the pieces together, much like one of her quilts, and read the complete story. This should become a book, the wondrous legacy of a beautiful soul. As you wrote : “Stories are the keepers of words and memories.” My Father once told me that “Everyone has a story, many remain untold.” Milly’s story needs to be told again and again. Thank-you for sharing your stories and photos!

    • Jennie says:

      That is so lovely, Ellen. Thank you for your kind words. Yes, stories are the keepers of words and memories. I’m so glad you enjoyed Milly’s stories. Best to you.

  11. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Here is another wonderful post from Jennie!

  12. beetleypete says:

    Even though I knew how this would end, I couldn’t help but have teary eyes as I read it.
    One of the great things about the Internet is how such stories can touch the hearts of people an ocean apart.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you so much, Pete. Yes, this was in my spam folder which I don’t check as often as I should. Your words are greatly appreciated. Best to you.

  13. Léa says:

    How kind of you to share this journey. Milly and you had found a treasure which was friendship and Milly will always be there for those whom she carried in her heart as they now carry her.

  14. GP Cox says:

    Outstanding post, Jennie. THIS should be required reading.

  15. I had tissue at hand and boy oh boy did I need it! Oh, Jennie what a wonderful woman she was, and your story, about her, the children, and the quilts is so thoughtful, beautiful, moving, and inspirational.

    Now make this series of posts into a book! GP is right it’s required reading!

  16. L. Marie says:

    There’s not a dry eye here either, Jennie. 😢
    I agree that Milly’s journey deserves a book.

  17. Karen Papineau says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story, Jennie.

  18. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Monday 13th August 2018 – Sue Vincent – Æthelflæd, Jennie Fitzkee – Milly’s Legacy, Learning from Dogs – #Dog #Flu Alert | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  19. A tale of two remarkable women, Jennie. The photographs are wonderful.

  20. barbtaub says:

    What an amazing, beautiful, sad, funny, absolutely wonderful story. Milly and you Jennie have given a lifetime of special memories to these children lucky enough to know you.

  21. dgkaye says:

    Jennie, this was a most beautiful story. The last few years of Milly’s life was enriched by being with the children and creating new projects. Milly has enriched so many children’s lives and her work remains visible for the world to see. Such a sad ending – bittersweet indeed. You were a great friend Jennie. Glad I brought my tissues for this. ❤

    • Jennie says:

      Aww… I should have had tissues handy before I read your wonderful words. Thank you so much, Debby! What a decade we had, and that’s what children will remember. Saturday was her memorial service. OMG! I think I need to write an epilogue.

      I realize that the past few weeks I haven’t gotten an email on your “Just in case you missed them!” I love that, and get caught up. So, let me know how I can be back on the list. 😀

  22. olganm says:

    Such beautiful and inspiring story. Thanks for sharing Milly and her wonderful life with us, Jennie.

  23. sjhigbee says:

    What a fabulous story. Thank you for sharing this, Jennie – what a wonderful lady. And how much you all achieved together!

  24. tidalscribe says:

    Thanks, I was delighted to find myself following this story.

  25. Amazing story, amazing women you two, and amazing quilts throughout it all!
    Such a special friendship…peace to you in this time of loss.

  26. Jennie, I can imagine that you have shed some tears, because I have too. It is such a beautiful, loving, caring, giving story that benefits, your students, and all of Massachusetts’ children too, as well as something good for our America. There is so little goodness in our country right now that your story, is a beacon of hope. Milly reminds me of my grandmother and I miss her still. When I think of Milly her good heart and kind soul, and I great quilter, I think of my grandmother who also was a quilter, and seamstress. Thank you for sharing with us. Karen 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      Grandparents and connecting generations gives young children a foundation of goodness. Just like your grandmother did, and mine. I’m so glad these stories spoke to you, Karen, and pointed out there is a beacon of hope. 😍

      • Jennie, Yes, connecting with generations, especially grandparents, is a very important foundation for children. Grandparents can tell stories of days of old and give kind advice and so much love. Karen 🙂

      • Jennie says:

        Yes they can, in a way that is far different than a parent. So important. 🙂

  27. Jennie, I have just read many of the comments that your followers have left and i was thinking too, that this should be a book and required reading for all school age children. It is a must, and a epilogue, too. Your writing is wonderful and really brought the story of you, Milly, and your beautiful young students to life and they have been changed forever to see goodness, giving, and caring as a critical part of their life experience. They too, will go on to create an atmosphere of goodness and some will want to be teachers, just like you.

    • Jennie says:

      A book is what I’ve been hearing- you read those comments, too. I will put that on a must do list. Epilogue today or tomorrow. It was quite a funeral. I grabbed one of those little stubby pencils in the pew to take a few notes! And thank you, although I feel there needs to be another, better word as I have said that to you so many times. 😍

  28. Hi Jennie. I had wondered when this post was coming. I figured you were busy and it would show up… Now I see that I had missed it. o_O
    This is a beautiful finale. OMG with the Governor kneeling to talk to Millie. I can barely hold back the tears reading this during my afternoon quick break… Good think I don’t have another meeting this afternoon! 🙂
    What an awesome, heartwarming, inspiring, wonderful series you made of this. Hugs on the wing.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Teagan. When the Governor kneeled- that was the big OMG. It was Milly’s shining moment. And nobody knew that was going to happen. I’m so glad you you enjoyed this, and felt as moved as I did. Her funeral (memorial service) last Saturday was incredibly moving. I had to grab one of those stubby pencils to make notes. Epilogue tomorrow. Hugs to you! 🙂

  29. It’s taken my a while to get to the end of this and I’m sure you understand. When the tears welled up so many times, I had to walk away. First of all, I’m impressed beyond words at your Governor! We need more like him. The stories Milly will tell in Heaven will be legendary. I know that peaceful feeling. It knocks you over doesn’t it. I am so hoping you find a way to make a book of this. One day, someone will write your story about all you did for all those children. It will be a doozy too.

    • Jennie says:

      You say the nicest things, Marlene. Thank you! I do understand that it took a while to get to the end. It took me through some tears to write it. I’m so glad you enjoyed the stories. Our Governor impressed everyone that day. What a gesture! I can just see Milly telling all her stories in heaven. Have you felt that wave of peace, too? Pretty powerful. I will put those stories into a book one day. You can’t make that stuff up- pretty incredible. Best to you, Marlene.

      • I have felt that peace and will probably write those stories myself quite soon. It’s why my children have been instructed to have a party when I finally transition. It’s been quite the ride. 🙂

      • Jennie says:

        Marlene, you and Milly are cut from the same cloth. Pun intended! I hope to leave this world in the same way. Yes, write those stories. 😀

  30. jjspina says:

    So sad to hear about Milly but you and the children will hold her close to your hearts. Such a lovely story. I just tuned in on the 9th part. I will have to go back and read the rest. What a wonderful woman Milly was. She touched so many young lives and surely made a difference as you are doing with the children. You are a special person too. You showed such kindness and caring toward Milly and was always there to support her when she needed you. God bless you and Milly both. The quilts will be a memorial to her memory and giving manner toward the children in your class. Thank you for sharing this heartwarming story, Jenny. Hugs xx ❤️

  31. What a wonderful day that was, for you, Milly, the governor, and everyone else lucky enough to be there!

  32. Norah says:

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about Milly and the quilts she made with you and the children. What a wonderful contribution she, you, you all have made to our world. The lessons learned by these children will live on in their hearts forever, and the hearts of others who are fortunate enough to view their ideas immortalised by Milly’s quilting.
    “What a Wonderful World” – what a fitting tribute to a wonderful lady. It’s always been one of my favourites but the tears were already flowing by the time I go to the song. Thank you for sharing the remarkable story of this remarkable woman and her, your, beautiful quilts.

    • Jennie says:

      I’m so glad you have enjoyed reading the Milly stories. I think this stories and the quilts will be remembered for a long time. And the song!! I still get chocked up just thinking about it. Many tears shed, too. Thank you so much, Norah!

  33. Thank you for sharing Milly’s story with us. You and Milly created so many lifelong memories for your children, their families and all of those you touched during your journey. I know I will always remember the joy and the importance of the story of the Peace quilt, you and Milly. – Susan

  34. ren says:

    Thank you Jennie for bringing Milly into the lives of so many.
    Thank you for being you….so open and in tune, that you were able to behold Milly’s peaceful adios to you. It was for the best, to happen that way. Certainly she did not want you to have your final memories of her, lying on her death bed. She knew you were coming and headed you off at the pass.
    Thank you , Thank you, Thank you………….

  35. Oh Jennie.. I am so pleased I saved my visit here in the quiet of this evening.. you should see the tears running down my face.. I had to wipe them before I could see to type.. What a beautiful honour for Milly and the children.. And I loved that the Governor knelt to speak to Milly.
    Often is the case we sense and know when someone passes.. So pleased that Milly was able to convey that peace directly to you…
    Just a beautiful Jennie… ❤ And I am sure Milly is resting in peace, knowing she led a good productive happy life…
    Love and Blessings ❤

  36. Sarah says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful story with us, Jennie! Milly’s wonderful quilts and her influence on the children that were so lucky to work with her on them are a beautiful legacy and will inspire many beautiful things I believe. Peace and art – what could be better for this world?

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