By Kay Etheredge
(This was originally written for a church newsletter a couple of years ago).
I love a story and I especially love a story involving a quilt. Quilts can be made out of new fabrics that are all matched and coordinated, but my favorite quilts are made out of scraps. In some of the quilts that my grandmother made and my mom in earlier days, I can see bits of fabric that I recognize—vaguely familiar from a dress or cheerleading outfit or even soft pajamas and gowns sewn by two of the women in my life who cloaked me in all things homemade—each stitch a hug.
A group of ladies from the Church of Brook Hills makes quilts for the men at Brother Bryan Mission. Maybe they want each man who enters the mission to be wrapped up in something homemade—something that has been lovingly pieced together from scraps of fabric and prayers. Perhaps some woman has a son or grandson or husband who is struggling with addiction and she can’t do one single thing about it so she does what she can do and she sews. She takes scraps and makes something beautiful.
Last month our church hosted a Brother Bryan graduation ceremony and I was privileged to be one of many in attendance. The family of William Heaton came as well. William passed away a couple of months ago from liver cancer. He came to Brother Bryan Mission sullen and angry. This was one of many in his long chain of rescue missions and he didn’t have much hope that this place would help him any more than the others had. In a class that Jim taught, he challenged William to explain what the plan of salvation means. William faltered and tried many times to explain salvation. He never got it right and I believe the Holy Spirit prompted William to go and talk to Brian Keen, his counselor, about salvation. Through Jim’s tough challenge and Brian’s explanations, William gave his life to Christ. Not long afterwards he was diagnosed with the disease that would take his life in just a few short months.
His family came to the graduation ceremony at our church so that they could receive a Bible given posthumously to William for completing the Brother Bryan program. They came as a family unit to stand on the platform of our church and accept the Bible. Several of them spoke about William, whom they called Billy, and it was touching to hear about his struggles with drugs/alcohol through their eyes…how they prayed for him and how each time he left they hoped that he would be okay. His sister told about how her Sunday school class had prayed for his salvation for years, and that always, always, her fear was that he would die and they would never know. Sometimes the unknown is the hardest thing to endure, and when his sister and daughter spoke, those of us in the audience experienced through their raw emotions just a small glimpse of what they’d lived through. One thing was definitely clear, and that was throughout their years-long ordeal, they never, never stopped loving him.
After they finished their tribute to William, Thomas Kicker went forward. His bunk had been right next to William’s bunk, and as William’s illness began to take over, Thomas had been the one to help inject him with different medications. William left the mission to go to his sister’s house to die. He spoke to the men poignantly before he left and we were able to see the DVD of that last goodbye to his friends at Brother Bryan. When he left, he left behind the quilt off his bunk. Thomas told about how he wanted William’s quilt—a keepsake –to remember his friend, so he folded it and put it away and kept it. When the word reached them at Brother Bryan that William had indeed passed away, they all wanted to attend his funeral service. Thomas told about how he met William’s granddaughter at the funeral—a little girl around 10 years of age—and he heard her speak of her love for her grandfather. Thomas said all he could think about was the quilt he had stashed away, and he knew he wanted her to have it. At the graduation at our church, Thomas gave the quilt to William’s granddaughter. She was totally taken by surprise and her reaction was unrehearsed and tender. She took the folded quilt in her hands and then buried her face in it and wept.
My story was about William Heaton and his salvation but it’s also about Thomas Kicker. Thomas, in his own testimony, tells about spending roughly 20 years in prison. He was a tough cookie and robbed pharmacies to fuel his addiction. I never knew that Thomas, and cannot even fathom the Thomas we know and love doing something unkind. The same God that saved William Heaton, that saved you and me, saved Thomas Kicker. The same Holy Spirit that works in every believer to convict, to prompt, to minister, etc…worked in Thomas to move him to give up something he treasured—his dear friend’s quilt. Through the grace of God, William left behind a godly heritage for his granddaughter, and Thomas gave her a precious keepsake that came with a beautiful story—a true story—of sin, the scraps it leaves behind, and our loving Creator who weaves and pieces and sews us into stunningly beautiful, God-breathed patterns of Redemption.