Monday, July 28, 2014

A Tribute to the Quilting Bee

How things can change in a month.  Sometimes for the good and then sometimes not.

Late on the evening of Feb. 1, Worker Bee got a text from his brother saying that their mom had just been diagnosed with cancer.  Cancer of the pancreas, liver, and possibly lungs.  The doctors said 90 days. She stayed with us for four weeks.

This post is so very difficult to write.  I loved my mother-in-law very much.  She was a role model for  my daughter and me.  She was generous and very loving - especially to her family - and I was lucky and blessed enough to be loved by her too because I married her baby boy.

I haven't written a lot about her before.  She wasn't a part of our daily lives like my mom is, but she was always in our heart.

When Worker Bee and I met in college, his parents lived in the Bay Area, one of the loveliest parts of our state.  I loved going up to visit them and I think we must have gone up about once a month.  I remember being so impressed with how warm and inviting their house was.  And thus began the lessons I feel I learned from Helen (aka The Quilting Bee).  From her I knew I wanted our home to be inviting.  I knew I wanted it to feel warm.  I wanted for it to feel cozy.

At that time, she was also very into gardening.  Worker Bee shared that love with her too.  And then he shared it with me.  I learned the names of plants and how to care for them from her.

Then, shortly before Worker Bee and I got married, his parents were transferred to Ft. Worth, Texas.  And again, Helen made the house in Texas into a warm and welcoming space.  I also saw her make a new group of friends.  I've almost always lived in the same town I grew up in and my parents grew up in and my grandparents grew up in.  I marveled at how she did that.  How did she even know what to do to make new friends? 

And she became a quilter in Texas.

She made beautiful quilt after beautiful quilt.  I'm not sure how many she ended up making, but each grandchild received one, and there are 11 of them.

This is the last quilt she made and she made it for Baby Bee.
The back is in Mary Engelbreit fabric - I think she might have picked that just for me!
I want you to know that she could do anything she set her mind to do.

She took cabinet making classes (I never knew that - she might have kept that one secret so I wouldn't ask her to build me a new kitchen) and learned how to build furniture.

She took classes on ornamental horticulture and worked towards getting her degree in that.  Sunset magazine came out and took pictures of her succulent Christmas tree.  She won blue ribbons for her plants at the Santa Clara County Fair.

She refinished furniture.  She reupholstered furniture.  About eleven years ago Helen and Bob (my father-in-law, he passed away in 2004) flew out to see us and I convinced them to reupholster our couch.  It was amazing!  They made such a fabulous team.

She had great style too.  As was said at the memorial service, she had sass and she had class.

After Bob died, she uprooted herself again and moved to Louisville which was closer to her oldest son and much of his family.  And she made a new group of friends again.  How did she do that again?  At the age of 74? 

Helen was born in Wisconsin, then moved to Illinois (where Worker Bee was born), then to Southern California, then to Northern California, and to Texas and then Kentucky.  She made friends wherever she went, but family was first.  

I didn't mention what a bridge fiend she was.  She loved to play games, but bridge was her favorite.  She tried to teach me a couple of times, but I just wasn't interested enough.  Worker Bee likes to play bridge, but who our age plays bridge?

So, today, Helen, on what would have been your 84th birthday, I am finally able to write down a tribute to you and how much you meant to all of us.  We miss you every day and especially when Baby Bee dances.  I know how much you loved to see her dance.  I imagine you dancing away in heaven with Bob (after he has cooked a gourmet dinner and dirtied every pan, utensil, and dish in the house).  

Love you!


  1. What sweet and precious memories you hold in your heart of this dear lady. I am sorry for you loss. May the peace that passes all understanding guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Blessings to you.

  2. So sweet. What a talented lady. Hugs

  3. I don't think my comment went through and I don't think I can pour my heart out like that again!! This is a beautiful tribute. I loved my MIL as well so I understand how great it is to have someone lime that in your life. I said more in my original comment, just know that this made my heart break and then made it glad that you had Helen in your life. Love to you and all the Bee's.

    Jane xx

  4. I'm so sorry for your loss. Helen has set an example for us too through your precious tribute. There are times that I don't attempt something because I might fail but hearing about someone like her ...who could do's encouraging. This was a great thing to share. Thinking of you and your family.

  5. What a wonderful lady your Mom-In-Law was & what a wonderful legacy she helped to create.
    DianeM <3

  6. What a loving tribute to a beautiful lady! May light perpetual shine upon her and may your wonderful memories sustain you all.

  7. Oh my! Your post is really tugging at my heartstrings and reminding me of my MIL. She passed 5 years ago and there is not a single day that I do not think of her. I'm so glad Baby Bee enjoyed the love of a wonderful grandmother!

  8. So sorry for your loss. What a wonderful lady. We have recently had a death in our family and it's been a shock. Many hugs to you :)

  9. I am sorry to read of this loss to your family. Your Mother-in-law left a wonderful legacy of strength and grace to her family and friends. May you feel peace in your hearts with the knowledge that you will see her and your FIL again.


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