Sisterhood of the Traveling Quilt

With her husband gone and her friends dispersed, there had to be a way to reconnect with old pals and classmates.

By Myra Sanchez, Leander, Texas

As appeared in

Quilts take a lot of time. When I started my current project, I woke up every day with new ideas and fresh enthusiasm. I really believed in the importance of what I wanted to create, and I had my husband, Claudio, to cheer me on.

But in the months since, things had gotten hard. I injured my shoulder and my recovery was slow. In the middle of it all I lost Claudio to prostate cancer. Now I was discouraged, lonely, and without Claudio’s support.

Facing down the half-finished quilt in my sewing room one morning soon after his death, I could hardly muster the energy to make a single stitch.

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The quilt was meant to be a way to keep my old nursing class together. We’d graduated from Mercy College of Ohio some 40 plus years before and quickly dispersed all over the country.

After our last anniversary banquet, I tried to find ways for everyone to stay in touch, but nothing ever seemed to work out.

“You need to find a connection when you’re apart,” Claudio said after another futile attempt at planning a mini-reunion. “Something you can share at a distance–like in that movie The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

My husband made me laugh out loud. That movie was our guilty pleasure. Four friends manage to stay close by passing around a pair of pants that magically fit each one of them and gave moral support to the one who wore them in the absence of the other three.

Mailing pants wouldn’t work for my nursing classmates, but...

“What about a quilt?” I said. “We could all collaborate in putting it together, and once it’s finished mail it around to whoever is in need of some comfort.”

Claudio clapped his hands. “Brilliant!” he said.

I got in touch with as many of my old classmates as I could. Everyone who wanted to join the project was sent a square of fabric. They could sign it or write a personal message. Once I got the squares back, I’d assemble them into the finished piece.

I rubbed my sore shoulder and ran my hand over the unfinished quilt. Even after multiple surgeries, movement in my left arm was limited.

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I missed Claudio and his comforting words. I wanted to have this quilt finished by now, I told him up in heaven as I looked at the pattern taped to the sewing-room wall.

There was still so much to do. Our class’s forty-fifth anniversary banquet was coming up and my heart wasn’t in this project anymore. With Claudio’s encouragement I’d kept at it despite my bum shoulder. But Claudio was gone now.

Working on the quilt was impossible with my aches and pains. Why was I even trying? I covered up my sewing machine and left the quilt as it was.

Weeks passed. I didn’t sew a thing. I marked the sixth month anniversary of Claudio’s death. It’s just an idea that never got finished, I thought one afternoon when I went into in my sewing room to dust.

Quilting squares littered the table. They were filled with colorful messages and notes from my old classmates at Mercy College. I picked one up: “Mercy sisters–friends forever!” The cursive was messy, but the statement was true.

I dug into the pile of fabric squares. “Friends are angels who leave miracles in your heart,” read one in cheerful, looping handwriting. “Love is the thread that binds us together,” the next read. Sounds just like Claudio and his traveling pants, I thought, smiling for the first time in a while.