A common term in quilting, UFO, stands for unfinished objects. We have workshops where you can bring in your UFOs and work on them. There is a great deal of camaraderie that happens between stitches. We tell our recent highs and lows of life, and exchange recipes (quilters are good cooks and good eaters, I've noticed). Somehow, despite our differing ages and lifestyles, we become a sort of human equivalent of a quilt.
This concept became more meaningful to me when, several years ago, I was asked to be a lay minister and give a memorial service for a woman I had never met. When the service began, I looked out on a sea of faces; the room was full. Each face seemed to hold an expectation, a hunger, for spiritual altitude about the person they were there to honor. I could see that, while we may have come from different backgrounds and religions, the common denominator was a loving attachment to this dear lady.
I asked each of the people in the hall to imagine themselves as symbolizing a square of a quilt. Each person represented a unique relationship with the individual we were honoring. Those "squares" of her life were present to join in celebration of the diversity of her relationships. The beauty of her life could be seen in the way she touched others. We joined in silent prayer and took a few moments to reflect on what our purpose was that day - to think about life, not death or defeat. She had not lost a battle and become a victim, but was going on to gain greater ground in her relationship to God.
In those precious moments of silent communion with those attending, the wonder of this quilt of fellowship filled my thought. After our prayer, it was as if a cloud of sorrow had lifted, replaced with inspiration and peace. No regretful yearning for just one more chance to do or say something to this person, but calm acceptance that our lives go on, no matter what happens. I read from the Bible: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (I Cor. 15:55).
Several years later, I was asked to say a few words at the memorial service of a dear friend. Again I stared at a hall full of family, co-workers, and a community of friends yearning to hear something that would "lift the shade of gloom," as a loved hymn by Mary Baker Eddy states ("Christian Science Hymnal," No. 298). I was afraid that I might break down and weep during this talk, but I was lifted out of sorrow in thinking about the many ways this friend had made me laugh. I told the gathering about the times he would come in the door after work and call out, "Let the pampering begin!" People who knew him knew about his obsession with sports. He was a dedicated fan of the Chicago Cubs, and his wife had arranged for the two of them to attend some of the games at Wrigley Field so he could see his beloved Cubs play.
He told me that if the opposing team hit a home run, the fans were so dedicated that they would throw the ball back onto the field to show that they would not keep a memento of a run against their team. I told that story to the group at his service and asked them to honor him by "throwing back" any thought of his life being over. It was clear to me that my dear friend could never be diminished or defeated.
Are our lives or the lives of those we love merely unfinished objects in a divine creation? There are no UFOs in God's kingdom of eternal life. We are complete, held in His love, and that is an everlasting victory over the shadow of death.
... Love wipes your tears all away,
And will lift the shade of gloom,
And for you make radiant room
Midst the glories of one endless day....
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)