by Suzanne Labry
Memorial quilts have become an increasingly popular way to honor a lost loved one, while also providing a creative way to comfort those grieving such a loss.
An organization in Ohio uses memorial quilts to celebrate a particularly special group of people: those who, in death, bring life to others.
Lifeline of Ohio is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes and coordinates human organ, eye, and tissue donation for transplantation. Founded in 1985, it serves 37 Ohio counties as well as two counties in West Virginia and provides services to 72 hospitals.
Organ donor memorial quilts to celebrate a particularly special group of people:
those who, in death, bring life to others. Here the father of a donor stands with the
quilt on display at a hospital.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 20 people in the United States die each day waiting for an organ transplant. As of December 2017, nearly 116,000 people were on the national transplant waiting list. One organ donor has the potential to save eight lives through organ donation and heal 50 more through tissue donation.
Since 1998, donor memorial quilts have been a part of Lifeline of Ohio’s community relations effort. The organization contacted members of the Black Swamp Quilters of Bowling Green to see if they would help. The quilters agreed and took “memory squares” made by family members of 22 donors, sashed the blocks to create a top, added batting and backing, and quilted it.
Heroes of Healing was the name of the 2016 Donor Memorial Quilt.Black Swamp Quilters eventually completed ten quilts, some containing 30 blocks, before Ann DeLeon, a Lifeline of Ohio employee, took over that task. She is now starting on the 14th donor memorial quilt, through the years, over 300 families have made memory squares for their loved ones.
The family members of each donor are invited to create a 12-inch memory square with a ½-inch border. Families are encouraged to include the name of their loved one and any significant dates, events, hobbies, accomplishments, nicknames, their hometown, etc. on their submission.
Memory squares display a variety of techniques, including appliqué, cross stitch, embroidery, needlepoint, sewing, fabric paint, crayons, stenciling, photo transfers, pieces of clothing, school letters, and sports emblems. Lifeline of Ohio supplies the same sashing, backing, and binding fabrics for all the quilts to provide a consistent look. For those who need help in completing their square, Lifeline of Ohio offers a workshop.
Jessica Petersen, Media and Public Relations Coordinator at Lifeline of Ohio, explained that when enough memory squares to make a quilt have been completed, family members are invited to attend a donor family reception. “It is an afternoon of honor and remembrance,” she says. “We have a ‘quilt pinning,’ when family members bring up their squares and pin them in place on a felt board. They share stories about their loved one by describing items on the square. It is such a healing, therapeutic experience for everyone.”
Families are encouraged to include the name of their loved one and any significant dates, events, hobbies, accomplishments, nicknames, hometown, etc. on their memory square.
The completed quilts also provide a powerful tool for demonstrating the power of organ, eye, and tissue donation. Whenever Lifeline of Ohio makes presentations to groups or attends community programs, the quilts, which carry such titles as The Power of One, The Gift of Hope, and Forever in Our Hearts, are used to personalize the message.
Lifeline of Ohio also makes the quilts available for public exhibitions and events throughout the state upon request. One of the quilts is always on display at Lifeline of Ohio’s corporate office in Columbus.
Making a memory square for the donor memorial square is a healing, therapeutic experience for family members.“Each quilt is a tribute to the altruistic human spirit that embodies organ, eye, and tissue donation,” Peterson continues. “The memory squares are a powerful visual reminder of the people who donate, and they are made with such love and respect. It is a beautiful thing.”
Anyone wishing to register as an organ donor, nationwide, can do so at https://www.registerme.org.