In Memoriam

This quilt of stars was made to celebrate the life of Augusta de Jager (1 October 1957 — 9 December 2020). How does one begin to write a post about the loss of a quilting companion and a vibrant member of our small town community? With difficulty. To help deal with the harsh fact of her death, the QUOGs (Quilters of Grahamstown) made a quilt in her memory and gave it to her husband, Strauss, with our love and the hope that it would bring some comfort. This post is about the making of the quilt.

First I wish to bid Augusta farewell and thank her for the convivial memories of stitching and supping together, for the fascinating conversations and the laughter. The QUOGs have been meeting for nearly 30 years and it is ironic that COVID-19 took one of the younger members of the group. But Augusta was a determined and intrepid educator who did not hide herself away.

During Christmas time the thought to make a quilt of stars to celebrate Augusta’s life settled itself in my head and refused to go away. The group agreed that it was a good idea and we talked about where to start. The Crazy Star has long been a favourite of the group and, at a workshop some years ago, Augusta had made very large stars so that she would be able to quickly finish a quilt for a gift. The pattern lends itself to making stars of different sizes in a free and easy way by using the stack, slash, and swop method. One ends with a set of wonky stars of more or less the same width which can be trimmed and stitched into rows.

Of course there was discussion about the size of the blocks and the colour palette. But the crazy aspect won out and we all made stars from fabrics that reminded us of her, or which she had given as gifts in the past. There were no instructions to make them a set size. The contributors kindly stitched them into rows, which made the final assembly quick and easy.

We held a Saturday workshop during February where we made stars. Some members opted to make their stars at home and deliver them, others found that they already had some in their UFO stashes, and others puzzled over the instructions that had been emailed to everyone. It was remarkable how quickly the quilt grew and how much fun we had, despite the underlying sadness. It was also good to share memories about Augusta as we spent the day stitching.

The next step was to turn the strips of stars into a square quilt. Again, this happened remarkably easily. Three of us gathered for a morning and set about joining rows of the same width. Once we had strips of more or less equal length we joined the strips and, hey presto, we had a queen sized bed quilt top. I had never thought it would end up being so big. Everyone contributed with gusto.

Busy bees assembling the quilt and the final composition.

We left the quilt top in two sections so that it would be easier to quilt on my domestic sewing machine, in straight lines, with a walking foot. I volunteered to do this and Karen then bound it quickly and efficiently. We got it done in record time — just as well as autumn is drawing in and the nights are getting colder.

And so life continues. When I asked Strauss for permission to publish a blog about his quilt he sent me the text of a forthcoming column he had written for the local newspaper’s Soul Food section. His piece is about Easter and autumn and is titled “Dear Lord, may all these days be sanctified” (Guy Butler’s translation of the opening line of the Afrikaans poem “Vroegherfs” [Early Autumn] by N.P. van Wyk Louw). In the article he writes about coming to terms with loss:

As the glorious green remnants of summer fall around us during these days of autumn, may the showy and vain leaves of pride also fall from our lives. And so may all these days indeed be sanctified. In my personal walk I have come to regard the season of losing my wife, Augusta, to COVID-19, also as holy days. From the time at the end of November when I intensely prayed for her healing, up to the present time of dealing with her death, it has been one, longer than usual, autumn season in my life. The season of loss of precious, but temporary, things, also brings with it growth though, and ripening and becoming stronger.

Strauss de Jager, Dominee, NG Kerk

38 thoughts on “In Memoriam

  1. Very touching post. I have tears (and stars) in my eyes looking at your quilt full of glory. I was going to call my daughter Augusta or Stella or Estelle. If I made the connection between stars and Augusta I am happy to hear that you did too.

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  2. Such a lovely post written for your friend, Mariss. I’m so sorry to all of you quilters who lost a good quilting friend (they are precious, aren’t they?), and please extend my sincere condolences to Strauss. Augusta was well loved, and the star quilt is a perfect tribute to that.

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  3. My dear Friend, I am choked up having just read this sensitive and beautiful tribute to Augusta, our group and the friendship we share. Thank you.

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  4. I appreciate your lovely blog and all the effort to make this quilt for Strauss. Augusta or Goo as we called her was the youngest in her family. Her mom was my godmother and my sister and I spent our weekends at their house when our parents died. We were teenagers when they died and during the week we wdnt to boarding school. Augusta showed me how to make a crazy star quilt and I so enjoyed doing it that I have made more than one. Alida la Grange

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    1. Dear Alida
      Thank you for taking the time to comment and for sharing your rich memories of growing up with Augusta. It is so nice to know that she also shared her enthusiasm for the crazy star quilt with you. Groetnis.

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  5. What a beautiful and relevant tribute to Augusta. Thank you for sharing this experience and thank you too for including the passage from Strauss. I will be looking for a translation of ‘Vroegherfs.’

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  6. What a wonderful tribute that your quilting circle has created, and using the star which seems to have been a favourite of Augusta. And her husbands tribute at the end of your blog post. So sad to find that your youngest was taken from this dreadful virus…I hope Strauss finds comfort in the queen sized quilt…

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  7. Oh, Mariss. My profoundest condolences on the loss of your dear friend, co-quilter, and community member. I am so moved by the story and the quilters’ kind and compassionate project of making a quilt for Augusta’s husband. The quilt is a beautiful celebration of life. I am so moved.

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  8. Dear Mariss
    What a lovely gesture and tribute to your friend and comfort to Strauss. I knew him in my Stellenbosch days. If he married a quilter, he chose well! I will certainly make contact with him. From a fellow quilter belonging to Jacaranda Quilters’ Guild.

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  9. I find myself at a loss for words to express how deeply this has affected me. Tierney and “Handmade Habit” verbalize a bit of what’s in my heart which is heavy with concern for you and your circle of friends.
    The quilting project was no doubt cathartic and healing – resulting in a thing of beauty passed on to comfort the one ‘left behind.’
    Strauss’s lovely prose reflects not only the heart of a lover’s grieving, but one of an artistic soul, communicating further what is hard to put into words and touching others in the process.
    Take care, dear one.

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  10. That such amazing beauty and heartwarming caring from friends and strangers, have been inspired by such terrible sadness and loss! It gives me such hope for the world. I can almost feel something of the resurrection joy on Easter Sunday, after the darkness over Calvary on Good Friday. Thanks everyone and blessings to you all. And thanks again to the great quilting friends who enriched Augusta’s life and Mariss for the initiative and sharing the story.

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  11. So sad and tragic, Mariss. The quilt of stars made with such love is a touching tribute to your friend and it must have contributed to a profound fellowship in a time of deep loss. Sending love.

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  12. I am so sorry you lost a friend. This quilt looks like a very fitting tribute. Even though everyone picked their own fabrics I think it ended up very cohesive, you must have all known Augusta well to make stars that all fit together.

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