The following letter was presented to Jim and Norma Gund along with a beautiful handmade quilt. The Gunds were severely attacked after coming to the aid of Christopher “Sky” Richardson of Corvallis, Oregon and Kristine Constantino of Kettenpom, when they were murdered in Kettenpom on March 13, 2011.
Jim and Norma,
Thank you for your part in Sky and Kristine’s lives. You are heroes and thinking about you has given us courage, too.
We wanted to acknowledge your courage like the army honors heroes with purple heart medals. That was the beginning of this quilt of purple hearts. What was meant to be one purple heart grew as more people heard about it and wanted to participate.
Seeing the hearts arrive, knowing some of the stories of the people who sent them, we began to see that, just as might be true in the army, the givers of the purple hearts are often heroes, too. They also know what it is to be heroic in the face of life. Seeing this become a heroes’ quilt – made by heroes for heroes – put a different light on the deaths for us.
Mothers, fathers, children, loggers, artists, engineers, veterans, counselors, students, nurses, farmers, neighbors, and family are represented in this quilt. Many of the people who made these hearts had never sewn before. More people helped put the quilt together in the end. People have told me that being involved in making the quilt helped them heal.
These are some of the people who have been thinking about you from other places, praying for you in your recovery, and wishing you well in your lives.
I want to tell you some things about the quilt that I might forget to tell you in person. The mantra written around the ribbon near the edges of the quilt is the mantra of compassion in Buddhism.
The edge of the quilt has double-yellow lines representing the highway, as I have been thinking about you, Jim, when you used to be a highway worker, protecting us regular people from danger and keeping us on the road. We quilted crosses at the crossroads of these highway lines, because I was so moved by your letter to the newspaper last year, which I saw online. That reminded me that when the road changes directions we are most reminded of our spiritual connections.
There is a yellow bus, from hearing about you Norma, the school bus driver who works to keep all the children without exception safe and moving toward good goals. The school bus is traveling clockwise, which I think is the Native American direction of blessing.
The back of the quilt started while I was waiting for the last of the hearts to come in. The heart side had such wild energy in it at that time that I wanted something strong, stable, and protective to help balance it on the back.
The center of the back is a Buddhist mandala of protection. The center of the mandala has hearts quilted in it, in a cross shape. In both Buddhism and Christianity I have heard that the horizontal part of the cross is about being the best human we can be and the vertical is about connection to the ultimate.
A Buddhist mandala is like a blueprint of a building, which has four doors. Each of the four “doors” on the quilt mandala has another heart quilted in it, which I meant to represent love, compassion, joy, and equanimity from my favorite Buddhist prayer. The rays coming out of the mandala are rays of love pushing any negative causes out, purifying them when they get to the protection ring of fire and light. I put one strip of red on each side of the protection ring. For me, that signifies blood as a symbol of purification.
The hearts on the front of the quilt are represented on the back in the quilting in the mandala, and we tied the ties in rays from the center, so the rays on the back are part of the front, too. For me, that’s another part of the quilt that unites our human (heart)side and our spiritual (rays) side.
May this gift contribute to your healing, as it has helped us in ours.
Wishing you the best, now and for always.
Erika and Dave Crimp
The Gunds responded by saying, “We feel so humbled by their most generous act. Love glows from every corner and every stitch, and as your eyes hook up with one heart, you journey through to each of the other hearts until you are back where you started. Amazing. It lays heavy on our bed right now, and is very comforting.
”So many different people who went to sew and work their love of their fellow man into an instrument of healing. It must be known to you who grew this quilt that it is having the desired effect. That day, when we were so graciously presented with it, was a real stepping stone for Norma and I. We are very grateful to you all.
”When we come together to help our fellow people, share our love and our gifts, that is how God wants us to be. I call them bits of heaven.”
This beautiful handmade quilt of hearts was presented to Jim and Norma Gund from Kettenpom for their unselfish response to a very dangerous situation. Left to right are Norma Gund, Sky’s brother, Jim Gund, and Sky’s mother Erika Crimp.