Quilting a legacy

Published: Jan. 27, 2019 at 10:48 AM EST
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Stitch by stitch, a New Haven woman has kept the memory of her late husband alive by weaving his clothes into elaborate quilts. Channel 3's Christina Guessferd sat down with Linda Sweeney about how she's using a needle and thread to continue his legacy.

"It's his life in a quilt, and so we can't have him in the present, but we can wrap ourselves in him," Linda Sweeney said.

Linda realized rather than throwing her husband Michael's clothes away after he passed, she'd use the fabrics, embedded with his memories and smells, to tell his story.

Last February, Michael died unexpectedly from a heart attack known notoriously as a Widow Maker. Linda and Michael were high school sweethearts, married for more than three decades. They had two girls and a boy, who now have families of their own -- grandkids who call Michael Pop-Pop.

Linda doesn't remember the day she decided to make the collection of quilts and stuffed animals, only the pain she felt making the first cuts, and the tears she shed wondering if she was doing the right thing. Now, thanks to her, all of the people in Michael's life can hold on to his love.

"My niece, she has one, and she call him MD -- Michael Darren -- that was his name, Michael Darren," Linda laughed. "And that's her copilot. She leaves him in the car every day, and she's a grown adult. She's 42."

Linda said she also made her two grandkids, 5-year-old Josie and 9-year old Hunter, their own pieces to remember their Pop-Pop. Josie gave up her Sloth stuffed animal, or stuffy, as she calls it, for the interview. Hunter, however, didn't want to part with his quilt, made from the pajamas Michael would wear during their sleepovers -- some of his favorite memories with his Pop-Pop.

Linda said she is "an unwilling architect" of this new life, but that doesn't mean she has to construct it without Michael.

"As I finished the last quilt, I thought to myself, 'This is my rebuilding my life and our life with what I have.' This is all I have, right? We have memories, we have his clothes," Linda said. "So, I'm just rebuilding his presence in a different way."

"I mean even as my kids looked at these quilts they were like, 'Oh, daddy wore that and daddy wore that, oh wait, daddy wore that, too, right? Like it was just so real. And even talking about the quilts, you know we were talking about Carhartt [pants] that he had painted the house in, and you can see that, or stains from the garage," Linda said.

Linda said she's stitched her last quilt in honor of Michael -- for now. That is, until a new grandbaby is brought into the family. She said, when that happens, she plans to walk into the hospital, quilt in hand, and wrap that newborn in Michael's memory. She said though her future grandchildren will never meet Michael, they will come to know him through the fabrics of his life.