For a commemorative birthday, my daughter-in-law made me a quilt. The work and imagination that went into the project is breathtaking.

She started by sending two 5x5 pieces of white cotton fabric to my friends and relatives, telling them her plans and suggesting they each create something to add to the quilt. There are fabric reproductions of favorite photos, carefully embroidered phrases, and mementos, stunning reminders of a joyful past.

For years the quilt hung on our den wall. But times change, and now that room is no longer a den, and has no wall to offer for a blanket-sized cover. I folded the quilt and put it away until the wall, or another like it, would become available.

Recently it has occurred to me that such a wall will not appear again in my lifetime. So, I did what should have been obvious from the beginning. I removed a bedspread, and now use the quilt for a bedcover. Today it delights me in ways that I had not begun to appreciate before. I study the squares, one at a time and allow whatever is recalled there to flow through me – memories, affections, jokes, happy times, profound times, all symbols of a life of grace given to me by those I love.

In one corner, there is a square with a green frog that has a very wide mouth, and is obviously singing. This comes from a niece who was that wide-mouthed frog for many years. The frog-niece joined my daughter, her “twin cousin,” over summer vacation. Year after year, the two girls managed to steal my heart, and drive me to distraction.

Another square simply says “More Guts than Brains,” but lovingly adds “and all heart!”

My husband, in his muted fashion, simply reminds me that “God is Love.” When I see his contribution, I remember all the symbols of love that passed between us over the 55 years we had together.

My sister and brother-in-law have a square done in patriotic red, white and blue, and boldly stating “I Like Ike.” In point of fact, in 1956 we did not like Ike, but when our oldest was a newborn, we were offered baby-sitting for a night out by the couple. One the way home from a delicious, rare evening of freedom, we picked up our first born. When we got him home and proceeded to change him at bed time, we discovered those words boldly painted on his precious little tummy!

My niece, and namesake, reminds me of the day when she was a toddler who found the grape jelly, and I asked her mom to “clean her up or change her name!”

Any number of squares remind me of the wonderful family reunions my sisters’ kids shared with us over 30 years. Other nieces and nephews bring memories of Hefty’s Skillet Creek Farm, where we initiated a vacation destined to end in the Wisconsin Dells.

Friends drew mementos of college days. My daughter acknowledged gifts given her.

There are some biblical references and some photos, reproduced on the squares. The pictures include one taken of my mom, sisters and me when I was about 7 years old, and some from our daughter’s wedding.

The squares, and memories, came from all over the country, and from friendships and relationships spanning 70 years. How could I have kept it put away all this time, when it should be in front of me, always on tap? Each night I go to sleep remembering something and someone special from my life, and I wake up and start a new day with another memory that reminds me anew how good that life is.

The things that change our lives often come when we are not looking for them. It could be a book we read or it could be the confidence expressed in us by a parent, teacher, or mentor.

We would like to hear from Western New York women about the defining influences on their lives for Women’s Voices. Send your essay (up to 700 words) to and include your name, email and daytime phone number. Submissions must be by email and cannot be promotional in nature or anonymous.