sewing silk and scissors

The Quilter

I delivered this sermon yesterday at the funeral of my mother, Goldie Trezise, at the Church of the Brethren in Westernport, MD. I’ve been calling it a sermeulogy as it is more eulogy than sermon.

What do you say about the death of your mother? It is common experience. The nature of life is that almost all of us endure such loss eventually. But yet it is unique, as each mother is unique, and the relationship that we each have with our mother is unique. So I come before you today to celebrate the life of a very special and unique woman…my mother, Goldie Trezise.

One of the more enduring mental images I have of my mother is her hunched over a quilting frame. There is a picture of her quilting in the slide show we had at the funeral home. Each winter she would put a quilt in a frame and work on it whenever she had a spare moment between caring for her family and home. She was a very accomplished quilter and won county and state awards for her quilting. She long ago completed her goal of leaving a quilt for each of her children and grandchildren. Here is one she made for us that we have used as a wall hanging. She was not fond of this one because she found a mistake in it after it was finished and she wanted her quilts to be perfect.

Each quilt that Mom finished carried a piece of her life with it. Indeed, that can be taken literally for, until washed, each had little spots of her blood on it where she had pricked her finger in the process. I think she saw her quilts as her legacy and that was why she was so intent on creating one for each of us. But Mom’s legacy as a quilter extends far beyond her quilts.

Let me describe the quilting process for those who are unfamiliar with it. The quilter takes small scraps of cloth, which might otherwise find no purpose, and sews them together into patterns of varying degrees of complexity. The completed pattern is then sewn onto cotton batting stretched across a quilt frame, where the stitches themselves become a work of art in a second pattern. The finished piece then becomes a cover for a bed, a throw for a sofa, or a work of art.

Mom was a quilter not just of cloth, however, but of our lives. She took pieces of herself and embroidered them into the lives of everyone she touched. Yet she neither intended nor understood that she was doing so. She was just being herself. But in being herself, she wove herself into so many lives and lived for all of us the example of a true Christian life.

One of the significant pieces that Mom quilted into the fabric of our lives is caring: not the showy kind that gets public recognition, but rather the daily kind that touches lives one-on-one. Mom had a hard time expressing feelings for her friends, so she was not one to write notes or sit with someone. Mom expressed her care through food. Goldie Trezise was a cook and a baker. I’m not sure she actually enjoyed cooking, but she nevertheless would produce large quantities of wholesome, down-to-earth food. But the amazing thing is that so much of it went out our door. When she baked bread for example, she would make dozens and dozens of rolls. And were they good! But almost all of those rolls were wrapped in aluminum foil and sent on their way to folks all around Westernport who Mom thought needed hot rolls for dinner. And she expected us to get them there while they were still hot! And it was also soup, cookies, and anything else that struck her as needing to be shared. And in so caring for her neighbors, friends, and family, Mom taught us to care.

An important piece that Mom has sewn into my life is reading. Mother loved to read and always had at least one, if not more, books that she was reading. And Mom read to us from the time we were old enough to pay attention. She also made sure that we had books of our own, even when money was scarce as it seemed to be so often. But Mom was not just giving us a love of books, but more importantly a love of learning. For Dad reading and learning was very utilitarian, but for Mom it was a joy in itself. That she gave me that piece of herself is something for which I am very thankful.

Another huge piece that Mom wove into all of our lives was the love of play. Mom loved to play….anything. Her repertoire, and ours, encompassed cards, dominoes, checkers, Uno, all manner of board games,  bowling, and golf just to name a few. You could not be with Goldie Trezise and expect to get by without playing with her in some way. She would even make up games when we had nothing else.

And Mom was competitive. Anyone who has known any of her boys knows that we can be just a bit aggressively competitive. Well, our Dad was competitive, but the real competitor was Mom. She absolutely hated to lose. A story I love to tell, and she would be very angry about me telling it now, but perfectly represents how competitive she was, occurred one day during a family golf outing at Oakland Country Club. Mom was not playing very well that day. My brother Paul and I were playing on a hole that ran parallel to the one she was on. We heard yelling from Mom’s fairway.  We looked up and there was Mom jumping up and down on her ball and cursing. It was the only time in my life I heard her swear! Well, Paul and I just sat in the middle of the fairway and watched her while we laughed about as hard as I can ever remember laughing. Soon Mom was laughing too, because Mom also loved to laugh.

Even in her final years when her memory was gone Mom would still laugh. To live life with Goldie Trezise was to play and laugh. It was such a deep part of the fiber of her being that on one of my last visits with her just before Thanksgiving, all she talked about was going back to her home on the mountain and playing in the yard with her father. And on my last visit when she had so little energy left, she still mustered a smile for me.  So in her love of play and laughter, Mom taught us to embrace the fun in life and relish it with humor.

The biggest piece that Mom stitched into the quilt of our lives was faith. Mom was a Christian. She was not a theologian by any means. Her faith was not an academic exercise. It was simply the basis of her life. Jesus was not a remote concept, but a friend that was right beside her at every moment. Mom read her Bible and lived what she read. Serving God, frequently within the walls of this church, was just a natural part of her life. And taking her children by the hand, bringing them to this church, and showing them how to live in Christ was also just natural to her.

So many of my memories as a child occurred in this church, because I was here so often with Mom. We most often sat in a pew about one quarter of the way up from the rear and I can still hear her singing her favorite hymns…off-key because she was not much of a singer, but with strength because she loved them nonetheless.

When Mom began to lose her memory she was aware that her quality of life was slipping away and for a period was angry. During one of my visits with her she was saying that her life was worthless. I cut her off, as I did too frequently, and told her I did not want to hear her talk that way. I reminded her that she had achieved the greatest thing a mother can accomplish: she brought her sons to active lives in Christ. She smiled and looked at me and said, “I guess I did good.” Yes Mom, you did good. You were an excellent quilter of our lives.

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus emphasized that “he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” The promise Christ lays before us is not a difficult one to accept. We do not have to do anything except hear and believe. Jesus does the rest, transforming our lives through the work of the Holy Spirit. For Jesus is the Great Quilter. He takes the good pieces of our lives, and the gifts of the Spirit, and stitches together a new life in him. He did it for Mom and will do it for us.

My Mother lived a life of simple but pure faith. My Mother lived a life of simple but pure service to God, family, and neighbors. My Mother claimed Christ’s promise, brought her boys to that promise, and lived her life so that all of us could claim that promise. She has passed from death into life. As Jesus promised the faithful thief, this day she is with him in Paradise. Now I’m not sure what Paradise looks like, but I sure hope for Mom it is playing and laughing in the yard with her Father.



  1. Cindy Gay on January 29, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    I am so glad you posted this. It’s a keeper! A great legacy.

    • Carol on January 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm

      Made me cry it was so beautiful. Don’t know how you could get through it reading it aloud, but what a tribute. She certainly did “do good” in her son, Tom – I’ll accept your word about the rest of it. You are a fine Christain caring family man! Love to the family. Carol

  2. Chuck Evans on January 29, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    Tom – that was beautiful. I remember your Mom from the 1950’s and 60’s. You were right about her cooking. She used to feed your brother and me cookies all the time when we would come in from playing. She was a beautiful lady.

  3. Kim on March 28, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Beautiful Tom

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Welcome, I'm Tom

I'm Tom Trezise a retired lawyer and corporate executive with over twenty years of experience as a Methodist lay preacher. Raised in Appalachia, I proudly call myself a hillbilly at heart. I'm the executive director of The Everyday Kingdom, a non-profit devoted to fostering a community that helps people find and experience the peace, purpose, and joy available from living every day in Christ’s kingdom.

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