Our family, all eight of us, is spending Christmas week in Florida.

Julia and Chelsea, granddaughter and daughter-in-law.

Julia and Chelsea, granddaughter and daughter-in-law.

Before flying here, we gathered with the Hershey family, all 41 able to be present, at my sister Sue’s farm in Pennsylvania.

My mother, almost age 89, was the center of our attention as my sister Linda presented a special gift to her — an exquisitely crafted and reconstructed quilt originally made by my great-grandmother Snyder for my father in 1937.

My mother had placed it in a cedar chest years ago, thinking it was dry from being washed and hung on the line. When she next wanted to use it, she discovered mold in the very center of the quilt.

Ruined forever, it seemed.

But my sister Linda had other ideas. She heard the heartbreak in Mother’s voice when she described how guilty she felt for not taking enough care of an object that could never be replaced. Linda took the damaged quilt to her own house and pondered the loss in her heart.

Years later, she found a gifted friend who not only had the skills, but also the empathy, to understand this type of tragedy.

Sisters Linda and Doris sang Amy Grant’s song “Heirloom” as they gave Mother her new quilt, with the moldy place replaced by new quilting and new backing.

My mother Barbara Ann Hershey Becker, with my sisters Linda and Doris.

My mother Barbara Ann Hershey Becker, with my sisters Linda and Doris.

The picture above is my Christmas card to my readers. Behind the sisters you can see the Holy Family. We never give gifts at Christmas without re-reading the miraculous story in Luke 2: 1-20.

This year the angels at the Hershey Christmas party seemed to sing even more sweetly than usual.

Nothing we later enjoyed at the Magic Kingdom was more magical than the quilt redeemed and transformed by love — and the family that celebrated faith in the miracle of Christmas itself, together.

Do you have any Christmas (or Hannukah, Solstice, Kwanzaa) miracle stories? We would love to read them! Please leave your comment below.

Mother and the Quilt

Mother and the Quilt

Shirley Showalter


  1. Laurie Buchanan on December 23, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    Shirley – I cried happy tears as I read your blog post today. The look on your mother’s face speaks volumes of sheer joy!

    Merry Christmas to you and yours. May the New Year be filled with peace, joy, and health.

    • Shirley Showalter on December 23, 2015 at 4:22 pm

      Thank you, Laurie, for entering into the miracle with us and for seeing the joy in my mother’s face. Every year that we continue to celebrate together I understand and appreciate more the great gift it is to be alive. And to share a belief in miracles.

  2. Merril Smith on December 23, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    I echo Laurie’s comment in that I also cried happy tears when reading your beautiful post. What a loving and special gift that was for your mom, and how wonderful that you all could be together. Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and New Year filled with peace, hope, and happiness.

    • Shirley Showalter on December 23, 2015 at 4:24 pm

      Merril, tears are a gift to the reader and the writer of stories. You know that! Thank you for blessing me with yours. Sharing good wishes for you and your family also now and in the New Year.

  3. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on December 23, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    My quilt story: My sister bought a quilt for $500 from an Amish quilter in Ontario. She put it in a black plastic bag in the garage to take to her cottage. Her stepson for once took out the garbage without being asked. You guessed it. That quilt was gone, with my sister running after the garbage truck, but not catching it!
    The beautiful part of this tragedy: The rest of us seven siblings chipped in for another quilt for her. We are family, after all, and we’re there for each other, no matter what! That’s what I liked about your story

    • Shirley Showalter on December 24, 2015 at 2:08 pm

      Elfrieda, this story is touching too. I feel for your sister’s stepson in trying to be helpful and causing pain instead. How lovely for seven siblings to restore the dream for your sister.

      I heartily affirm this statement: “We are family, after all, and we’re there for each other, no matter what! That’s what I liked about your story.”

      Merry Christmas to all!

  4. Carol Bodensteiner on December 24, 2015 at 11:11 am

    A beautiful story, Shirley. It speaks to character and love that your mother kept the quilt even with mold in it.

    Here’s my quilt story. My mother made quilts/comforters for everyone. Not fancy quilts but practical four-square, tied comforters made from old clothes. She gave my son one when he went off to college. Years later he had used the quilt to tatters. “Can you fix it?” he asked me. “I can’t, but I bet Grandma can.” “It’s not worth it,” my mother said when she looked at the worn, frayed quilt. “But I want that one, because you made it,” he said. She fixed it good as new and he still uses it.

    • Shirley Showalter on December 24, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      What a sweet thing for your son to say to his grandmother, Carol. No wonder she remade his comforter — and now he will always have a part of her with him. Thanks for sharing the story! What a beautiful name, Comforter, and, of course, a holy one.

      Merry Christmas to you and yours!

      • Carol Bodensteiner on December 24, 2015 at 4:29 pm

        Thanks and Merry Christmas to you, my friend. It has been such a gift to get to know you better through our year of Growing Up Country collaboration.

  5. Linda on December 24, 2015 at 11:59 am

    This is soooo beautiful! Wishing you a blessed Christmas.

    • Shirley Showalter on December 24, 2015 at 2:32 pm

      Thank you, Linda. May your Christmas be Merry and Bright!

  6. Joan Rough on December 24, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    A lovely story and such a beautiful mother you have! Blessings to you all for a wonderful family Christmas and a New Year filled with Peace!

    • Shirley Showalter on December 24, 2015 at 2:35 pm

      Thank you, Joan. Your memoir has helped me appreciate the preciousness of time with an aging mother. Thank you for writing your story, and I can’t wait until you bring it out into the world.

  7. Kathleen Pooler on December 24, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    A truly beautiful Christmas story, Shirley. The photo of your sweet mom receiving it speaks volumes of the love that surrounds her. It connected me to my own quilt story: a scene in my memoir where before Christmas I unwrap the handmade quilt made by my mother. In a deeply lonely moment, I find solace and peace in moving my fingers across the different patches which represented happy memories. Wishing you and your lovely clan a blessed Christmas.

    • Shirley Showalter on December 24, 2015 at 2:37 pm

      Kathleen, thank you so much for reminding me of that scene in your book. What a powerful, tactile, tangible thing a quilt is. What a good way to help readers understand your deep despair. It was something to hold on to even in the worst of times.

      I extend your good wishes back to you and yours.

  8. Sue Shoemaker on December 24, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    So far, I have been “quietly” enJOYing your site, Shirley, since I found you through Lynne Morgan Spreens’s site…but today I have to share an “afghan story.”

    My sister-in-law crocheted an afghan for our oldest son. She already had two little ones of her own at the time and she was “just” 3 months pregnant for her third child as she lovingly worked to create a special baby shower gift for us. That “third child” who was resting and growing comfortably inside of her as she worked, became a father for the first time last year. His daughter would be her first grandchild!

    Sadly, she died in 1993. Her son…this soon to be father…was only in 7th grade at the time of her death.

    As I was considering what to give them as a baby shower gift, I remembered “the afghan.” I had saved it carefully over the years, and now I KNEW why.

    There wasn’t a “dry eye” in the room when they realized this FIRST GRANDCHILD was receiving a gift crocheted by hand with love from her paternal grandmother. It was one of those “priceless” moments.

    • Sue Shoemaker on December 24, 2015 at 1:17 pm

      That should be: …”Lynne Morgan Spreen’s site…”

      • Shirley Showalter on December 24, 2015 at 2:42 pm

        Sue, there was no dry eye here, either. Oh my! You almost make me want to learn to crochet! 🙂

        I’m grateful to Lynne for connecting you to me.

        Without her I never would have heard that story! I feel so much for the new father who lost his mother when he was only in the seventh grade. I’m so glad you saved that afghan. You were being guided in love.

        Merry Christmas!!

        • Sue Shoemaker on December 24, 2015 at 3:21 pm

          Thanks, Shirley…Merry Christmas!

  9. Sherrey Meyer on December 24, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    Shirley, the essence of the holiday spirit is in this story. The fact that your mother treasured the quilt, even with its mold, speaks to her love for the person who stitched it together. And the efforts of your sister to have it restored shows that love stepping down the generations. What more do we need to define the love that came down at Christmas in the form of the Christ Child.

    Merry Christmas to you, Stuart, and all the others in your family!

    • Shirley Showalter on December 26, 2015 at 2:01 pm

      You said it so well, Sherrey. Christmas is all about love. It was a deep pleasure to see my sister offer so much joy to my mother and to all of us. Thank you for naming the Christ light.

      I hope you were also surrounded by joy and that it follows you into the New Year.

  10. Marian Beaman on December 24, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Do you remember the gospel song “True-hearted, Whole hearted …” probably in the Life Song book? I think both of those words describe the core of your family values. Yay to sister Linda and all of the Hersheys who mirror “joy unspeakable and full of glory” in your Christmas card.

    Luke 2: 1-20 is always read in the Beaman household on Christmas morn before the brunch. When the grands were very small, Cliff had a poster board color-coded for each of the children to chime in with words at the appropriate time. This year Patrick and Curtis decided that they have outgrown this and have volunteered with a PowerPoint presentation of their own that will include Jenna and Ian too. I can’t wait to see it!

    As I ponder the idea of a special word to guide me through the next year, I’m thinking it will have to be a word with “heart” in it.

    Your trip to Disney has the vibe of a mystery trip to it. No?

    • Shirley Showalter on December 26, 2015 at 2:10 pm

      I love how you and Cliff have passed along the Luke 2 tradition to your family, Marian. What better proof than that your grandsons want to take over with new technology?

      We did spend a day at Disney(the picture above was taken as we watched the Christmas parade). The children were a bit young for the rides and characters, so we had a very gentle experience. The biggest hit? Putting two quarters and a penny into a machine and selecting a souvenir — an oval flat penny with Mickey and friends.

      The pool and playground at the hotel are just as much fun for all of us as Disney. Tomorrow may be a petting zoo and botanical garden.

      Hope you find just the right word for 2016. I vote for whole-hearted. That’s you already. 🙂

    • Marian Beaman on December 26, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      A gentle experience is the perfect ticket for small fry. They may forget the details of Disney, but the stamp of family love is leaving an indelible imprint.

      Bingo – Wholehearted is my word! You know me well. 🙂

  11. Marylin Warner on December 24, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    I hope you took pictures of this restored quilt, Shirley, and will share them with us. My grandmother also thought she’d carefully packed away an heirloom quilt, but years later when she unpacked it, mice had gotten in.
    I asked if I could have what was left.
    We had it professionally cleaned, and then I cut out and machine-sewed all the pieces that could be cut into heart shapes. Mom and I backed them with unbleached muslin and bordered the edges with Grandma’s hand-tatted lace. There were enough finished small “heart” pillows that each of the 13 grandchildren received one. We did our best to preserve the memories as the quilt had been been made of the Sunday outfits Grandma’s five children had worn.
    Wishing you a joyous Christmas, Shirley.

    • Shirley Showalter on December 26, 2015 at 2:35 pm

      O what a great story to add to this storehouse, Marylin. Thank you. Your quilt had so many levels of meaning built into it that it served many generations as an emblem of love.

      Thank you for your contribution to this post and to many others. Hope you too had a Merry Christmas and that your New Year will also be a good one.

  12. Marilyn Hartman on December 25, 2015 at 11:41 pm

    Thank you for these beautiful quilt “love stories”. I’m glad to hear about treasuring appropriately the works of art and skill that have blest many families. Blessings to you on this Christmas Day and for the New Year coming!

    • Shirley Showalter on December 26, 2015 at 2:37 pm

      Marilyn, thank you for your comment and for reading all these other stories too. Isn’t it wonderful how one story begets another?

      Hope you come back again and that you have a wonderful New Year!

  13. Elaine Mansfield on December 26, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Exquisite, Shirley. Your mother’s face tell it all. Lots of woman and heart power in your family!

    I have no quilt stories, so my Christmas miracle is this: Vic asked me to marry him on Christmas Eve, 1967. When I get weepy on Christmas Eve which I’ve done since his death, my son’s gently remind me of that proposal and let me know it’s OK to be sad along with happy and grateful. This life is a melting pot of love and loss.

    • Shirley Showalter on December 26, 2015 at 2:43 pm

      The holidays are always hard times when someone we love can’t be with us anymore. And your own loss of Vic has the additional pang of the proposal anniversary every year. I’m so sorry for the pang and for the deeper pain, Elaine. I love the Christmas miracle of sons who serve as living reminders of the love you all have shared together. They are the true melting pot of love and loss. They must have much of their parents’ wisdom.

  14. June on December 26, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    The gift of a quilt, one rescued from being left abandoned. God continues to work in the art of fixing the broken. We are all broken, and God uses the broken. I read a story of a quilt that had fell into disrepair, one that had gaping holes in it. When it was held up the the light of God, God filled in the missing gaps.
    Life’s a tapestry of mystery and miracles quilted by God.
    Beryl Dov, Poet Laureate

  15. Shirley Showalter on December 26, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    Hi, June. So well said. We are all broken, and God uses us. I could tell that God was speaking to my sister as she chose to do this project and to tell the story through both written and spoken words. God was speaking to all of us as we saw the quilt held up in the light, its missing pieces lovingly restored by a skilled quilter.

    Thanks for joining the conversation!

  16. Shirley Showalter on December 26, 2015 at 11:31 pm

    I wrote the Christmas Eve Advent Meditation for The Mennonite this year and thought I would like to save it here. https://themennonite.org/advent-day-26/ “Hey, Unto You a Child Is Born!”

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