Tag Archive | Helmer Kenseth

Your Gift to the World

Grandma's Flower Garden Quilt

Grandma’s Flower Garden Quilt

Grandma and Grandpa. The little girl scowling on the right is my mom. The happy little boy is Uncle Helmer.

Grandma and Grandpa. The little girl scowling on the right is my mom. The happy little boy is Uncle Helmer.

My grandma (Mom’s mother) used to make quilts. At some point she started making a green “Flower Garden” quilt, but she never finished it. When Grandma died, Mom took the quilt pieces with the intention of finishing the quilt sometime.

Mom was not fond of sewing. She used to tell the story of one time she tried to cut out a dress pattern. She kept getting two of the same sleeves instead of a left and a right sleeve, over and over again, regardless of how she positioned the sleeve pattern piece on the fabric. She was getting more and more frustrated. Finally, her young daughter Nancy, who was intently watching her, suggested turning the pattern piece upside down. It worked!

Mom liked to embroider and crochet, but sewing was not her gift. I grew up sleeping on beautifully embroidered pillowcases. When I was in my 20s and 30s, Mom crocheted afghans in the right colors for every room in our house and for every car we ever owned. But she never did sew my grandma’s quilt pieces together.

Mom crocheting a baby afghan.

Mom crocheting a baby afghan.

I share my mom’s lack of skill in sewing. In high school I took “Home Ec” one year and had to make a dress. One of my classmates, Connie, put in the zipper for me. The zipper was the best looking part of the dress. I never wore the dress. In college, my friend, Claudia, tried to teach me how to knit. My first and only project was a pair of slippers. I tried to wear them around the dorm, but one slipper was too tight and the other was so big it kept falling off my foot. Claudia knitted me a pair of slippers that fit to inspire me to keep trying, but I gave up. Knitting wasn’t my gift.

When my mom died, my sister, Nancy, took our grandma’s quilt blocks and hired Aunt Edith (the gospel pianist I wrote about last summer) to finish making the quilt. When my sister died, none of her kids claimed the quilt, so I took it. I have it on display on a wall-mounted quilt rack in our home.

Last week my cousin, Gloria, brought me a snapshot of that quilt (at top of this blog post) along with her mother’s notes about finishing the quilt for Nancy. Gloria was in Cambridge for a few days to help her brothers and sisters get everything ready for their parents’ estate sale this past weekend.

Aunt Edith's notes.

Aunt Edith’s notes.

According to Aunt Edith’s notes, she started to put together my grandma’s quilt pieces into the “Flower Garden” pattern on October 27, 1989 and she finished the project on May 19, 1990. It took her 303-3/4 hours and cost her $15.90 for thread and other materials. She charged Nancy 71¢ per hour for 303-1/2 hours (she gave her ¼ hour free!) for a total price for labor and materials of $231.39. Nancy gave her $500.

In The Monastic Way daily readings for this month, Joan Chittister’s focus is “Doing What You Like.” For March 3 she wrote, “Doing what I like doing is not a waste of time. It is my gift to the rest of the world.”

I am so thankful that Aunt Edith knew that. She faithfully used her God-given gifts – both at the piano and at the quilting frame – to create beauty. Those were her gifts to us.

Aunt Edith at the piano. (In the 1930s she married the happy little boy pictured above, my Uncle Helmer.

Aunt Edith at the piano. Sometime In the 1930s she married the happy little boy pictured above, my Uncle Helmer.

Beyond the Sunset

Aunt Edith

Aunt Edith passed away last Tuesday evening. She’s the talented gospel pianist aunt I wrote about in this blog last summer (https://whisperingwindsblog.com/2012/07/30/lets-celebrate/). I woke up several times Tuesday night. My mind was imagining what her welcome in heaven was like. Here’s what came to mind.

Wedding of Helmer and Edith Kenseth (1936)
Edith’s brother, Orvin, and Helmer’s sister, Elsie, were attendants.

Edith’s husband, Helmer, was pretty excited. He had heard from God that Edith would be arriving that evening. Helmer and their son, Gary, had come to my mom and dad’s home for dinner. My sister, Nancy, was also there. Her husband, Clark, had not come because he had volunteered to go on a special assignment to help people on the East Coast deal with the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

Helmer and Gary, my mom and dad, and Nancy had just finished dinner and were about ready to start on dessert when Edith walked in. Helmer just stared at her with tears in his eyes. He was so happy to see her he couldn’t speak. Gary, who had died of cancer in his 50’s, jumped up and ran to her and gave her a hug.

Nancy got up to set an extra place at the table, and then dished up dessert for everyone. It was homemade apple crisp with vanilla ice cream. She also started a pot of coffee.

My mom asked Edith, “How are you feeling? Isn’t it wonderful to be rid of all your aches and pains!”

Edith just beamed. “I feel absolutely like a new woman! It’s so amazing to see all of you again. I can hardly wait to explore heaven and see the rest of my family and friends, and to make new friends.”

Helmer promised her, “We’ll start that adventure tomorrow morning. Tonight, we’ll just relax together, the six of us. You’ve been through the biggest change of your life. You need to take it easy for a few hours.”

My mom poured coffee for everyone as they started to eat the apple crisp. Edith commented, “Oh my, this tastes even better than when you made it for us in your condo on earth, Nancy.”

“Recipes are the only thing we can bring with us from earth to heaven, and this particular recipe is one of my favorites. It’s even better here because of the amazing apple trees in heaven. I picked the apples this morning. The ice cream is made from very contented cows, too. And no pesticides need to be used in heaven, and no preservatives either. Everything tastes better here.”

My dad changed the subject and asked Edith, “I understand our farm isn’t a farm any more – that the fields have been divided into lots and that houses have been built on most of them. I also heard that the house has been turned into a bed and breakfast or a spiritual retreat center. What’s really happening there?”

“Well, you’ve heard right. There aren’t fields on your farm any more. Your fields of corn and alfalfa have been replaced with houses. Across the road is still farmland, though. The farmhouse has more than doubled in size, thanks to Danny’s and Kevin’s carpentry skills. Marian and Mim have been using the house as a B&B-style retreat center. Hundreds of people have found their way to the farm to find a place to pray and spend quiet time with God. Something you’d like, Carl, is that they have hymn sings there a few times a year. I went to their Christmas Carol Sing last December. Oh my, we sang for at least two hours. It was so much fun! During a break from our singing to eat Marian’s homemade Christmas cookies, I played the piano. What fun that was!”

Helmer couldn’t wait any longer to ask. “How’s Matt doing with his NASCAR racing this year?”

“Well, you know I can’t stand to watch it on TV. I get too nervous that he might crash. Colleen watched him win his last race, and I guess he’s qualified for the big final race.”

Helmer grinned from ear to ear with that news. “Maybe I’ll look down on that race. Normally, we don’t watch what’s happening on earth because it’s too depressing. But you know how much I love to watch Matt race.”

Gary had been listening intently to the whole conversation. Now he had a really serious question. As a former Marine, he wondered how the country was doing. “What’s happening with the presidential election this year?”

“Oh, that’s terrible,” was Edith’s response. “People and corporations are spending millions of dollars on TV ads to distort the truth about each candidate. Just think about how much good could be done if that money were invested in helping people instead of trying to influence people to vote one way or another. At the end, I just tuned it all out. I’m oh so glad I’m here instead.” She turned her head to look out the window, to catch another glimpse of what heaven is like.

After a moment of silence, Edith asked, “By the way, are there any pianos in heaven? I want to play ‘Beyond the Sunset.’ I’ll sing it, too. I think my voice has come back! Let’s see.”

Beyond the sunset, O glad reunion,
With our dear loved ones who’ve gone before;
In that fair homeland we’ll know no parting,
Beyond the sunset, forevermore!

Aunt Edith playing her new piano in heaven.