Laverne’s Mission Accomplished

Laverne's Quilt Mission Accomplished Opener

As most of you know, I am an art quilt maker, not a bed quilt maker. I love bed quilts, but my quilt making is about creative expression, not comfort. I have been content to create what I want—when I want—for the past 10 years.

This gloriously self-indulgent philosophy changed this year because of a lady named Laverne.

In early July I received a package from my mom and stepfather Bill. Bill was clearing out his parents home and ran across several items of his mother Laverne’s. Laverne was a crafter and a quilter—and like most of us—she had a big stash.

The fabric from her stash was distributed to several people, but the embellishments needed a home. My mom told Bill that I could use them for my quilts, so they were sent to Texas. A very heavy box arrived at my door filled with all sorts of beads, buttons and embellishments. Along with all of these very sparkly items, were three partially made quilt tops that had lingered unfinished since Laverne’s passing in 1993.

If you would like to read the full story of this package and see two of the quilt tops, you can read it here. I don’t want to bore you by retelling the story. Besides, there’s a lot more to see in that post than what I’m covering today.

The reason I was sent the quilt tops is because Bill hoped that I would finish them for his mother. Because I love Bill, I agreed to finish making Laverne’s quilts.

Shortly after the package arrived, my life took a dramatic turn (my Bill passed away). I knew (mom’s) Bill would like to have the quilts, but my heart wasn’t into creating. The idea of working on the quilts wasn’t an option. I didn’t want to work on my stuff, so why would I consider working on Laverne’s quilts? As far as I was concerned, it just wasn’t going to happen—at least not this year.

Around the beginning of November, I get a call from my mom. She informs me that she and Bill are coming to Houston for Christmas. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is. You see, my mom nearly died almost two years ago, during a hip replacement surgery.

The reason the surgery took such a dramatic turn is because my mother has a rare cancer that was undiagnosed at the time. This cancer is called Multiple Myeloma. It is a sister cancer to Leukemia. Leukemia attacks the organs and Multiple Myeloma attacks the bones.

As my mother’s hip bone was being removed, her pelvis collapsed and she nearly bled to death. I won’t go into all the details, but she has been through a lot and is now doing much better.

Mom’s cancer is now in remission and she was officially given the “OK” to travel— which brings my story full circle.

Because of mom’s illness, their travel plans have been greatly impacted. Getting the doctor’s okay to travel was a blessing unto itself, but getting to travel in time for Christmas was almost more than they could asked for.

She and Bill immediately started making plans to spend Christmas in Houston. Jeff (Bill’s son) and I live a few blocks from each other, so that meant I could see easily see mom while they were here.

There is very little mom and Bill need or that I can do for them, but I wanted to show my appreciation for all he has done for my mother. Although I hadn’t planned to work on Laverne’s quilts until next year, their change of plans changed mine.

As they started making their travel plans, my mother started asking about the quilts. She did this because she loves Bill and knew how important they were to him. I told her at least once during each conversation that I wasn’t in the creative mood and that I didn’t realize when I accepted the quilts, that they were on a deadline.

She’d say, “No, there is no deadline.” but she hoped there would be something for him to see when they arrived in Houston. I told her that the quilts had been disassembled and there was really nothing to look at. Bill would only be upset when he saw what I had done to his mother’s work.

Okay . . . I admit it. I lied to my mother.

The truth is that as soon as I got her call about coming to Houston, I started working on the quilts—and lying to her. I won’t go into the number of times I did this, but let’s just say, it was more than once.

I kept telling her they weren’t finished, but she still kept asking about them. She just wouldn’t let it go, so I kept lying. I’m a good son and very sneaky. 🙂

By the time they arrived I had finished two of the three quilts Laverne started and here’s how the surprise unfolded on Christmas Eve . . .

Opening Package, part 1

Who wrapped this box? Are we actually supposed to get into it?

Bill and mom are surprised by the size of the box. They are also very timid about cutting the paper. Don’t know what that’s all about. Christmas wrap should be ripped open with wild abandon.

Opening Package, part 2

The box is so big, they are having trouble holding it.

They keep asking each other if they know what’s inside. They are really clueless at this point. They are also still being very delicate with the wrapping paper. I not so gently urge them to just RIP IT!

Opening Package, part 3

Finally! They have overcome their fear of tearing the paper.

Ah . . . that’s better. Now, don’t they look like children on Christmas morning? That’s the kind of enthusiasm I was looking for. Yea me!

Opening Package, part 4

Sure is a lot of tissue. What could be in here?

Now the mystery of the box is compounded by endless layers of tissue paper. When will this madness end?

Opening Package, part 5

They are beginning to wonder how many quilts are in this box?

Houston, the eagle has landed. I wish you could have heard them and seen their faces. The surprise was so genuine and miraculous. It was worth all the effort it took to make it happen. The sound of my mother’s laughter is the greatest sound in the world.

After she composed herself, she reminded me not to lie to her. 🙂

Opening Package, part 6

They finally get to see one of the quilts completely unfolded.

This was a magical moment. Bill can’t get over what I made from his mother’s top. He loved his mom, like I do mine, so I knew this gift was significant.

Hearing him talk about Laverne and the quilts gave me insight into how important this moment was. I was blessed to be a part of it.

Mom and Bill holding Shooting Stars quilt.

Mom and Bill are all smiles as they hold the completed quilt.

I don’t really need to say anything do I? Nope . . . their expressions say it all.

Mom and Bill holding the Rail Fence Pinwheel Quilt

Just look at those smiles. Aren't they just the cutest things?

I can’t begin to describe how wonderful it was to spend time with mom and Bill, so I won’t even try.

I hope you enjoyed my little Christmas story.

Merry After Christmas!


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64 Responses to “Laverne’s Mission Accomplished”

  1. Nicki Lee Says:

    Hi Tom – Looks like you had an enjoyable Christmas! My best wishes to you for a Happy , Healthy & Creative 2012! I for one can’t waitr to see what you come up with for the New Year!

    As for your mom and Bill – OMG! As you said “No words needed” are they just the happiest cutest couple!!!!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Nicki, Yes, it was an enjoyable time. Mom is doing great and is getting stronger every day and they are already starting to plan more roadtrips.

      They are very cute. They’ve only been married for a few years and they have newlywed smeared all over them. It’s very fun to watch them dote on each other.

  2. Karen A. Says:

    You truly do know the real meaning of Christmas!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Karen, Yes, I learned what was really important in life many years ago, but that message was sent loud and clear over the last couple of years.

      I cherish the time I get to spend with friends and family. No material possession could ever come close to those precious moments.

  3. Nikki Says:

    You’re a wonderful son Tom Russell – the world would be a much better place if there were many many more people like you in it!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hey Nikki! Thank you for your kind words. I believe I’m one of many and the world will become a better place because of it.

      You are an example of that change. Your thoughtfulness and generosity knows no bounds and everyone who knows you is blessed to be in your company.

  4. Eddie Landreth Says:

    What a beautiful story, Tom, and the looks on their faces says it all. It’s a wonderful thing you did for them and for Laverne by finishing off her quilts. I love finishing people’s old quilts that their long gone relatives started, it’s such an honor to be part of what they intended and to be brought into their life in such a way. You’re a good son, you done good!!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Eddie, I’m glad you enjoyed my little surprise. I had a lot of fun making the quilts and sharing the story with you. I learned a lot about Laverne as I completed her projects.

      She was a very energetic and enthusiastic quilter. She made quilts to be used and didn’t trouble herself with the standard rules of piecing . . . or grain the importance of grainline . . . or following the pattern . . .

      Oh yes, Laverne was a pioneer in her approach to quilting.

  5. JoAnn Says:

    What a heartwarming story to read on a cloudy rainy day in TN. Sons and their moms have a special connection. I can see that in my daughter and grandson. Happy New Year.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi JoAnn, I’m glad my little story brought sunshine to your cloudy day. There is nothing like the bond between mothers and sons.

      My brothers and I are as different as night and day, except when it comes to mom. When it comes to her, there is no difference between us.

  6. Judy Ayers Says:

    Tom, That old saying “It’s better to give than to receive” was evident that day, Good son you are!!!!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hey Judy, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Truer words were never spoken. I couldn’t have bought this kind of reaction for all the money in the world. It was a priceless moment, that is more special because I got to share it with you.

  7. Dot Collins Says:

    great story, great pictures – and you are a great son! Merry Christmas, Dot

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Dot! It’s so good to hear from you. I bet you are busy with the grandkids this holiday season and loving every minute of it.

      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and Bobby!

  8. Jackie Says:

    I want to adopt you as a brother, you are a good man and son. You are all blessed to have this time together and what a great gift to give them both.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Jackie, I’ll happily be your brother, no adoption necessary. It was great to spend time with my family new extended family.

      The night before we opened presents was spent talking about Laverne and the dynamic character that she was. Bill regaled us with stories of his mom and Jeff added what he knew of his grandmother. This made the surprise more special because the memories were fresh in everyone’s mind.

      They say that the giver is the one who really receives the most from the act of giving. I believe that is true. As much as Bill and mom enjoyed the gift, I think I received the most.

  9. shawkl Says:

    Thanks so much for the smile on my face right now! Wonderful moment!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Kathy, You are welcome. The pleasure was all mine. Knowing you have a smile on your face, brings one to mine.

      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  10. Margo Says:

    Ya did GOOD, kiddo! You gave them a treasure and the pictures will make you smile for years to come! Hugs….

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Margo, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I think we will all remember this Christmas. My family has gone through a lot and these photos show that for all the bad that can come your way, there are tremendous blessings as well.

      I called mom today and let her know about the post. She doesn’t get online that often, so it may be a week or two before she actually sees the post.

      When she sees it, I’m sure we’ll have a lot to talk about.

  11. deb Says:

    Tom, you are a good son!


    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hey Debbie! When you have a mom like mine, it’s really not hard to do the right thing. Actually it’s pretty easy. My mom showed me time and time again how to be giving to someone you love. I was just returning the favor.

  12. Jean Proud Says:

    A beautiful story and such a wonderful gift for your mother.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Jean, I’m glad you enjoyed the story. My gift is small compared to her being vibrant and alive. This Christmas she gave me the greatest gift of all . . . her laughter.

  13. Jeff Strang Says:

    Your mom looks like she is feeling much better! So glad you where able to spend the holidays together!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hey Jeff, Yes, she is doing SO much better. I really can’t get over how strong she is getting. She’s a tough little cookie, that mother of mine. 🙂

      The days were way too short, but the memories of our time together will last a lifetime.

  14. Debby Says:

    The quilts are great and that is evident by the beautiful smiles on their faces! Sometimes those little fins are a good thing. . . . like Santa, Elves, Easter Bunnies, and Secret Pals. Keep up the good work Tom

    • Tom Russell Says:

      What? What do you mean fibs? Are you trying to tell me Santa, Elves and the Easter Bunny are made up?

      Say it isn’t so . . . (Imagine me rolling around on the floor spasming uncontrollably.) Nooooooo . . . this can’t be true . . .

  15. Diane in Texas Says:

    I didn’t THINK it sounded like you to tell your mom you didn’t feel like working on them. You are MUCH to generous and considerate a guy to just dismiss it like that. I’m so glad you finished these for your mom and Bill, and obviously, they are too. You’re a good son!

  16. Analisa Says:

    What a wondrous surprise and I’m sure it will be their favorite Xmas gift for years to come. What a selfless act of kindness. God bless you. Xx from Dubai

    • Tom Russell Says:

      OMG! Analisa, where have you been? It’s been ages since I heard from you. I am glad you enjoyed my story.

      How are you? Oh, this is such a treat to hear from you. What a special day this is.

      You are now my official After Christmas present.

  17. Carol Anderson Says:

    Your mom obviously did a fabulous job raising you — even if you did lie to her! Okay, I admit to doing the same thing on a few occasions to various family members. The spirit of Christmas lives on in the Russell family.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Carol, I’m glad you enjoyed my little deception and came clean on doing a little bit of it yourself. I doubted that I was the only one who did this type of thing, but it’s always nice to hear that I am in good company.

      We did our best to make sure everyone was aware of what was important this season and it had virtually nothing to do with gifts.

  18. diane Says:

    You are the best!!! that was a wonderful surprise for your mom and Bill and the quilts look wonderful. All in the spirit of Christmas and your family.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Diane, I’m not sure I am the best, but I did what I thought was right. The surprise was worth the effort and the expressions far exceeded it.

      Merry After Christmas and Happy New Year to you!

  19. Carol Ann Wilbourn Says:

    I’m in tears! What a wonderful story. Thanks so much for sharing and the pictures really do say it all! Isn’t it wonderful to make someone that happy?!!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Oh Carol Ann, that is so sweet to say. I’m glad you enjoyed my story. I will remember this moment for the rest of my life.

      It was an amazing thing to experience. Seeing their smiles and hearing that surprise was priceless.

  20. Susan Vacek Says:

    Dear Tom (no, not Reindeer Tom) –

    You really are a dear! I felt in my heart that you needed to have something like Laverne’s quilts to work on at this time in your life! We all love you and thx for sharing this beautiful Christmas story, which is a gift of yourself, just like finishing those quilts was!

    Susan Vacek

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Susan, Over the last few months I have realized that it’s easier for me to work on someone else’s project than it is to work on my own.

      Having Laverne’s quilts to finish may have been another example of divine intervention. Although I had no intention of quilting before next year, my love for these two forced me to move beyond my pain.

      Love can do amazing and powerful things.

      Happy New Year and Merry After Christmas to you!

  21. Sherry Says:

    You’re a good kid…

  22. barbara Says:

    yes, they were cute. and you are a great son too. you are a blessing.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Barb! Aren’t they? I think they are the cutest things. Listening to them talk to each other, brings me so much joy.

      There’s a constant exchange of Honey this . . . and Sweetie that . . . followed with multiple Sugars, countless Babies, and numerous Loves, all used interchangeably in the same conversation.

      Their conversations are so sweet that you could become diabetic listening to them. I just LOVE IT.

      Thanks Barb, but I am the one who is blessed.

  23. Kelley Davis Says:

    What a beautiful and wonderful Christmas you had with your mother and Bill. You will never forget this one and neither will they. They were the happiest 2 people in Texas this Christmas.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Well Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Kelley! I wish you were here so I could give you a great big ((((hug))).

      It was a wonderful Christmas to share with mom and Bill. It made some of the less than happy moments easier to bear.

      Yeah, I think you are right. They were two pretty happy—and surprised—people after that gift was opened. They smiled the whole evening and into the next day.

      That gift was one of the best things I’ve done for myself in a long time. Giving it did more for me than I could have imagined.

      Love you!

  24. Jim Gatling Says:

    Oh, Tom!! Oh, that brought a big smile! Thank you for sharing your wonderful Christmas story! The quilts are wonderful. Your photographs captured that special moment that we all could enjoy. Good to see both Juanita and Bill. I know you had a very secial Christmas with them. Love, JIM

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hey Jim. I’m glad you enjoyed the story. It was a special moment for me. The unwrapping process was a little arduous, but after we passed that, it was unbridled joy all the way to the big reveal.

      It was good to see them. It made my Christmas merrier, for sure.

      Love you and will be talking to you soon.

  25. Jayardi Says:

    • • • I love a good surprise! And, when it comes to Great Surprises, it’s not considered lying. 😉 If you need a character witness, just call me and I’ll set them straight.

    It is wonderful to see your Mom & Bill so happy. What a treat for all of you after such a trying year. Best Wishes for a Fabulous New Year!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Jean, Whew . . . this is good to know. I’m going to have to plan more surprises, just so I have the flexibility to shade the truth a little.

      It was a treat, that’s for sure. Seeing mom up and about after nearly losing her, is beyond description.

      I have the greatest wishes for you in the New Year. I pray that your life is filled with joy and riches beyond measure.

      Love you . . . Thought you should know it.

  26. Katie Says:

    Tom – the quilts came out beautiful. I have to say you work pretty fast, it was only a few weeks ago you came into QnS to buy some fabrics for them. You put me to shame, I need to spend more time in my sewing studio and less time on my computer. I am so glad you had a Merry Christmas, and thank you for sharing the pictures with us. Happy New Year

    • Tom Russell Says:

      OMG! Katie! You did it!

      You responded to one of my posts. YEA! I’m so thrilled. I wasn’t sure what I was going to have to do to get you to respond. This is so wonderful, I’m pinching myself. YEA!

      I don’t work fast—far from it. After picking out the fabric at Quilt ‘N Sew, I spent most of my waking hours on the quilts. I had a serious deadline to meet and I had to meet it. I typically don’t work this way, but these quilts are easier to put together than my usual ones.

      I may start making a few traditional ones just to feel a greater sense of accomplishment. Maybe we should plan a sew day. That way you won’t feel bad about staying on the computer.

      Please let me know if you’d like to do that. We can gather at QnS and have a grand time finishing UFOs.

      Happy New Year and Merry After Christmas to you. See you soon!

  27. Carla Says:

    What a heartwarming post. Put a big smile on my face seeing their smiles and delight when they finally got the box opened.

  28. Clara Kosloff Says:

    Tom, What a great story and a great surprise. I love the pictures. It’s so good to see your mom doing so well. Your photography, quilting and writing are a gift. I’m so happy to see you using your gifts. May God bless you in the coming year. Aunt Clara

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Clara, I’m glad you enjoyed the story. Mom is doing great and you can see it in every photograph. It was a magical moment, that’s for sure.

      God has blessed me and many many ways, and I have the pictures to prove it. 🙂

  29. Joanie Page Says:

    I came to your blog via Sharon Schamber’s message on facebook. I just read your wonderful story and I have to admit it brought tears to my eyes. When all boils down it is the love and appreciation we show to one another isn’t it? I love seeing the expressions on both your mom’s and Bill’s faces! You did good!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hello Joanie, Thanks for stopping by. You are correct. Everything boils down to love. If we can give and receive it freely, magical things can happen.

      Mom and Bill’s expressions were priceless. I’m still not sure if they are over the surprise. It was a very good day.

      Happy New Year!

  30. Donna Says:

    Your parents looked very happy. It says alot about you to put their wishes above your pain. I hope you are doing better. My wish for you this new year to have many happy moments and many days of creating such beautiful works of art. Your my inspiration.

  31. Darlene Pearce Says:

    Love your blog

  32. daniellewilkes Says:

    Beautiful moment, Tom. What a heart you have. I can feel the sentiment through your post. Great writing.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Danielle, Thank you for your kind words. It was a wonderful moment and I continue to experience joy and blessings from it. Mom and Bill continue to talk about the quilts. I couldn’t have bought a more special gift.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. If you were able to feel my emotions, then I am overjoyed. Thank you again.

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