The below article was written by Lisa Ruppel in memory of Samuel Ruppel.
My husband’s assistant had lost a son when he was 14. She was a quilter and suggested I do a memorial quilt when my son Sam died. I didn’t own a sewing machine, and I had never really sewn before, let alone quilted. But, the idea appealed to me. I looked forward to the process it would take and the idea that I could still make something for my little boy, even though he wasn’t here with me. So, I bought a sewing machine, and I went to a local quilt shop. I explained to them what I wanted to do, and they were so wonderful and supportive. I took a class on basic quilting, then another one on a specific quilt we thought would be a good pattern to use for Sam’s quilt.
It was several months before I was ready to begin the quilt. I designed the individual squares using items we had received for Sam before he was born—an embroidered lion from a tiny sleeper, the turtles from some little socks, a picture of wooden blocks, etc. And, I was able to use some of the fabric that matched the animal designs we had painted on the nursery walls. The quilt shop also helped me with a technique to print from our computer directly onto fabric, so I was able to print out Sam’s hand and foot prints as well as a few photos of him. I met a woman who does embroidery who had lost her first two children. She embroidered a square for the center of the quilt with Sam’s initials. My goal was to have the quilt finished by his first birthday. I didn’t quite finish it, but I had it all pieced together by then, and it was quilted and hanging in his room by the time our rainbow baby, our son Jack, was born.
It was a tremendously emotional and cleansing process for me. I was able to go through some of Sam’s things looking for special items to use in the quilt, which gave me joy rather than the sadness I would have felt just looking through them without this purpose in mind. When I would make a mistake or have to take some stitches out, I would talk to Sam about his silly Mommy. And when I was unable to get my corners to match just perfectly, I would tell him that Mommy did her best. I spent so many hours working on it that I would have otherwise spent just being sad. It was very healthy to actually be creating something again, and remembering how we had created Sam at the same time.
There were many other hidden benefits of making Sam’s quilt. The owners of the quilt shop became friends and are now able to suggest/recommend this to other customers who might be grieving. I also learned of several other stories of loss through discussing the project with other people. And most of all, I have developed a true love for quilting. The quilt shop holds a class each year where you go in and make a tiny rag-time quilt that is donated to the local NICU. Making Sam’s quilt gave me so much—a beautiful way to remember my angel, something that I now love to do, and a way to help others.