My Girlfriends Quilt

a story of friendship and the healing power of music

Claudia May, Diane Skibinski,Coleen Stevens, Merci Karr, Helen Eggenberger and Valerie DeLaCruz (friends Judy Palmer, Nancy Landry, Jan Maswick not pictured)
I have often heard about the healing power of music, but I would never have imagined the way a song would forever change my life. I've been blessed with a wonderful, fulfilling life full of friends. A few years ago, one of my closest friends gave me a magazine article that likened friendship to a quilt; that the many and varied pieces of fabric are like the different personalities of our friends. I was inspired to write a song to honor my friends titled, "My Girlfriends Quilt," and it became the basis for a musical album project that celebrated the gift of friendship.

This album was a culmination for me of a dream to become a recording artist, and this song represented the support and encouragement of my friends while I embarked on this adventure. This was reward enough for finding a way to express my feelings for them and the opportunity to live my dream. But one night at a concert, about six months after the album's release, a woman from the audience approached me. She introduced herself as Diane, and wanted to thank me for writing "My Girlfriends Quilt." She went on to tell me the following story:

She had heard my song on the radio one morning and was struck by its message. Her good friend, Coleen, was suffering from breast cancer. Diane felt helpless and wanted to show her how she felt about her. Knowing Coleen was an avid quilter and collector, she felt the message would appeal to her as well. She bought the two of the CDs at the record store: one for herself, and one for Coleen. But listening to the words of the song, Diane was inspired to go a step further. She thought of a concrete way she could help Colleen and show her what she meant to her. She decided to create a quilt that would symbolize their friendships and comfort Coleen through the chill of chemotherapy. She felt that a quilt would be like a big "group hug" for Coleen.

Now, Diane had never made a quilt before. So she approached six other mutual friends and asked them each to contribute a piece of fabric so that she could assemble a gift that would tell a story of them for Coleen. Merci, who is from Puerto Rico, found a beautiful tropical print. Helen, an avid skier and instructor, found a fabric that depicts a snow-covered hill with pine trees to remind Coleen of their ventures in the woods. Judy gave the Snuggli sack that she used for her baby when she and Coleen were nursing their infant children together. Diane found a fabric with delightful illustrations of children in a child-like style that would symbolize the daycare center where she and Colleen met. And on the last panel, Diane wrote out the words to the chorus of the song:

And these friends make up my quilt
They keep me warm, they cover for me
We're pieced together without a pattern
Frayed at the edges, but our pledge of love
Is the thread that holds together
My girlfriends quilt

This story was so compelling, I asked Diane to arrange for me to meet Coleen and the group of friends. When we got together for a reunion at Coleen's new log home in upstate New York this past Christmas 1999, almost a year after Diane had given her the quilt, I met Coleen for the first time. She has successfully completed her treatment for breast cancer and is doing very well. Her poignant words to her friends, telling them that she couldn't have made it through the last year without them, were moving. And when I saw the quilt for the first time, I finally cried, too. How humbling that my little song, to thank my friends for the gift of their friendship, had evolved into something much more; something I could never have planned. I thank God for the blessings of my health, my friends and the example of wonderful women like Diane, Coleen and their friends in showing how precious life is and what a gift it is.