Widow writes poem of gratitude for comforting quilt

Longview | January 9, 2019
comfort quilt poem
She didn’t know who made her late husband’s quilt, but she had to express thanks just the same

Poetry isn’t the kind of writing Beverlee Ruhland usually does. When her husband, Howard, became critically ill and hospitalized, she had a “bad case of writer’s block.”

Her daughter gave her a journal and the Clatskanie, Oregon resident started jotting her thoughts between Howard’s doctor visits and stays at PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center in Longview, Washington.

Bev says that five years ago, the intensive care unit team at PeaceHealth had brought him “back from the brink of death. He spent a month in the ICU. It wasn’t easy, but it was good. They gave us five more years of memories.” 

Then Howard passed on March 5, 2015. During his last days, he had been covered with a beautiful quilt provided by area quilters who supply the hospital with their handmade creations.

He never got to enjoy it

“Howard never got to enjoy it because he really wasn’t well enough to notice,” says Bev, “but for everyone else, the quilt was quite comforting.”

After he was gone, Bev took the quilt home—a special final touchpoint with her beloved husband. She found it very comforting to curl up in it with the couple’s three dogs—Bear, Jane and Hannah.

A few months later, the quilt inspired her to write this poem:

The Quilt

Strangers fashioned it to comfort in the face of death
But he was unaware of its bright folds…too far into beyond to know
Yet I smoothed it over his stilling form…
Longing to ease the sundering…

When his last breath faltered
…and cloth could not warm what life had left
I folded it…
Brought it home…and wept upon it wrapped about me
Symbol of the bitter truth of parting.

Now edges fray from fingering…colors fade from washing…
Patchwork seams part here and there…
But still vivid are the memories each time I seek its warmth.

He did not see their gift as he lay dying
…But I did…
And now I think the stranger’s kindness was for me.

B. Ruhland

In thanks to the anonymous angels at St. John’s Hospital who gave this quilt to us…in hope that it can express how much it meant.

Quilting isn’t something Bev does herself, but her mother and friends have made quilts, so she knows—and appreciates—what goes into making one. “It’s a lot of work.”

Coping with grief

Bev’s own chosen art form is the written word. It has been one way of coping with her grief after Howard’s passing. “Writing is like having a conversation without having someone feel like they have to reply when there’s no good way to reply,” she says.

It’s also her way of expressing gratitude for the kindness of strangers who helped her as she cared for her husband.

Bev took a photo of the quilt draped over her rocking chair and had the image printed with the poem on a canvas to present as a gift of gratitude to the Spiritual Care team at PeaceHealth St. John, on behalf of the “anonymous angels” who provided the comforting quilt.

A moving gift

Susan Lanford, Director of Mission Services for the PeaceHealth Columbia Network, says “The chaplain team is quite moved by Bev’s gift.” The original will be hung in the conference room in the Spiritual Care Department at PeaceHealth St. John. And pictures of the quilt poem have been sent to all of the quilting groups that provide comfort blankets to the hospital along with a personal note of gratitude to acknowledge how much others value their members’ anonymous generosity.

And that was Bev’s intention.

“I really wanted to express my appreciation because the quilt has meant so much to me,” she says.

Bev’s now ready to get back to writing novels and other long-form works. And she has also promised to read grief poetry for a group next spring as another way of honoring the kindness she experienced during the last leg of her husband’s earthly journey.