Friday, September 30, 2011

"Stacey's Stash"

I promised that one day I would tell you the story of a very special mermaid...

“Stacey’s Stash” By Chris Hulme Colin

Originally written: 2007

Edited: September 2011

This is the story of an incredible chain of events leading up to an incredible fabric art project. It has inspired me to continue my quest for fundraising opportunities and involvement in pursuit of breast cancer research and support.

During the summer and fall of 2005 the Halifax Daily News ran a series of articles written by a woman by the name of Stacey Gaudet. The articles were about her experience with breast cancer. I happened to be reading a novel at the time about a woman who was dying as a result of breast cancer and some of the things this woman said and did in the book were so much like what Stacey said, I felt compelled to e-mail Stacey and tell her that her articles inspired me. We started a little e-mail correspondence and I told her about my sewing and how I had made a wall quilt of a Breast Cancer Survivor Mermaid and that I’d love to send her a card that I had produced from it.
Here is a photo of the wallhanging:

Stacey loved it and said that she did some sewing herself but not much more than pyjamas for her little girl. We continued our correspondence until I received an e-mail from her husband, Gerry, saying that Stacey had taken a turn for the worse and was now in hospital and he thought I would like to know. He kept me informed and finally wrote me of her death and how he was able to be lying beside her for her last minutes of life. After sending flowers and a donation to the hospital and a few more e-mails, we lost touch since Gerry had to discontinue Stacey’s e-mail account. I thought of him and his daughter now and then since then, but went on with my life.

During the summer of 2006 a friend of mine had become an avid runner and was entering as many races and run events as possible. She found out about the CIBC Run for the Cure and encouraged friends and family to join her on a running/walking team for the event. I am not a runner, but I love to walk so I decided to join. My then almost 12 year old daughter joined as well since she was at that point during the summer when boredom creeps in. Together, from that point on until Oct 1st, the day of the event, we fundraised our hearts out. We had a yard sale, recycled bottles, sold flower bulbs, had a charity birthday party and even went door to door. Going door to door asking for donations was the part that surprised me the most. I am a shy person and anyone who knows me knows that I hate asking for anything from anybody. But for some reason I felt that it was my job to weed out as much money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation as I could. By the run date my daughter and I raised almost $1700 together. We were proud of our efforts.

All we had to do now was walk the 5km on run day. You must understand that as part of the registration package you receive a sign that you can pin to your t-shirt that says, “I’m running for…” My daughter decided that she would put her aunt’s sisters on her sign…we’ve never met them but we decided that since we had family connection through marriage with them that it would be appropriate. Then for some reason, although I hadn’t thought of Stacey Gaudet for months I decided that her name should go on my sign.

I have to tell you that what we experienced on that day was far beyond what I ever expected. Our run site had more than 7500 participants. There were so many people my daughter and I had to hold hands at the start gate so we would not lose each other. It was the most inspiring day I have ever had as a woman. Walking in such a large crowd of women, men and children, each with the name of a person or even just a word on their signs, was an emotional and moving experience.

The Monday after the run, I was reading the newspaper when I suddenly noticed a letter to the editor from Gerry Gaudet. In his letter, he said that he and his daughter participated in the CIBC Run for the Cure. He sounded very sad as he said that although doing the run was a good experience for him and his daughter he felt that there wasn’t enough emphasis on the struggle of those who had not survived the battle with breast cancer and that the focus was all on the survivors.

I wanted to scream at the newspaper and tell him that I ran for his wife and that I had not forgotten her!

I e-mailed the editor and asked for an unusual request. I said that I had read Gerry’s letter and I would love for him to know that I had put Stacey’s name on my sign that day but that I had no way of getting in touch with him. The editor wrote back to me and said he had forwarded my e-mail to Gerry.

Later that day I received a phone call. It was Gerry Gaudet. I had never heard the voice of this man in my life and suddenly I was speaking to him on the phone. He wanted to thank me for putting Stacey’s name on my sign. We chatted for a while as I asked him how he and his daughter were doing. Then for some reason he asked me what I had been doing for the past year. I was a little surprised by this question. Why would he be interested? Well, I said that of course I was still sewing a lot and still making mermaid wall hangings a lot like the one in the card I had sent Stacey the previous year. He said, “Oh…you sew? Stacey sewed a lot too…” He went on to say that he still had piles of her fabric in his basement but he didn’t know what to do with it. He didn’t want to give it to a used goods shop because he felt that someone would just buy it for a reduced price and sell it for profit at a flea market.

As it happened, I had joined a quilting group called Mayflower Quilter’s Guild in February of the same year. Being part of this group, I knew there were many members involved in making quilts for a local women’s shelter called Bryony House. I told Gerry that I could take the fabric and make sure it was directed to the right people. Gerry said that would be wonderful since he had donated Stacey’s clothes to Bryony house as well.

So, that evening, there I was, driving up to this man’s house! I was at Stacey Gaudet’s house! I had never met her or her family before and suddenly I was being greeted at the door by her little girl! I had only ever seen pictures of Stacey and her daughter in the newspaper.

It was a very bizarre experience. I did not stay for long as I think both Gerry and I felt how unreal this was. He talked about Stacey for a few minutes. I could hear in his voice that it was still like her death had only just happened this week. It was heart wrenching. Gerry and his daughter both helped me load the three large totes and several bags of fabric into my car. We said our goodbyes and off I drove.

I suddenly had Stacey Gaudet’s fabric stash in my living room! I was dumbfounded by the irony of the situation.

During the time I was waiting for my contact in the quilter’s guild to pick up the fabric I felt an extreme sense of how much this situation meant to me. I had a nagging feeling there was still more that I had to do. I found myself clipping bits and pieces of each and every piece of fabric that belonged to Stacey. I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, but I felt I had to keep some part of it for when the idea came to me.

Then one morning while lying in bed I suddenly had a memory of some pamphlet or piece of paper I had picked up at the last quilter’s guild meeting. When I got up I went into my sewing room and leafed through all my piles of paper and found it. It was a registration form for a quilt show. The title of the show was “The Quilt: A Breast Cancer Support Project” That was it! That was what I would do with the fabric! I would use the fabric to create a wall hanging to be donated to this project.

And that is how “Stacey’s Stash” came to life. What I created was an abstract collage made entirely of Stacey’s fabric with at least one piece of each type of her fabric stash on the quilt. The fabric pieces are mostly ripped and placed haphazardly all over using a free motion sewing technique to adhere the pieces to the background. It’s not very tidy but I love how it mirrors Stacey’s life. It doesn’t make sense but it’s all connected.
Here is a photo of the result: "Stacey's Stash"

It seems like it had a life of it’s own from the beginning. If it wasn’t for so many little events and happenings over the duration of that year, it would never have come to pass. I now feel that I was meant for this. I am meant to dedicate some of my life and being to involvement in the fight against breast cancer. So, if you are one of the number of people I have come across in my quest for this and have wondered why I have a passion for it, now you know.

And it doesn’t end there.

It seems that I am forever going to be tied to Stacey. Because my daughter and I had raised so much money, we had qualified for a few bonus prizes. When it was time to go pick up our prizes in the spring of 2007, Emily and I went together during one of the scheduled pick-up times. We walked into the prize pick-up location and got in line and lo and behold, who was standing right there? Gerry Gaudet and his daughter. I just feel like I will be forever tied to these people.

And it doesn’t end there either.

The travelling art show to which I donated “Stacey’s Stash” was meant to be a fundraising auction. Each piece that was donated to the show was auctioned off online throughout the duration of the show itself. I knew that my piece had received a bid, which made me very happy, but I had no idea where it had ended up. In the spring of 2009, after the show ended, I received a message from the person who had bid on it; she searched my name and found me on Facebook. The woman’s name was Bobbie Slaunwhite…an older daughter of Stacey Gaudet’s who I had never even known about. What a perfect home for “Stacey’s Stash”!

This year, Oct 2 2011, my daughter and I are participating in the CIBC Run for the Cure again. Anyone interested in making a donation can visit my donation page here: