For about six months in 1997, this tapestry lay over the table in the breakfast room at our house as we worked with two other couples and a high school student to turn it from bits of amazing fabric to the beautiful design you see here.
It is one of the five large tapestries that hangs during the Easter season at our church, St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church in Lewisville. Three are conceived as panels in the main display, two more flank the sanctuary, and a sixth, smaller tapestry drapes over the altar.
For Easter season alone, we had to have enough volunteers to make the six tapestries. Multiply that by the many seasons of the church calendar — the bold red tapestries for Ascension and Pentecost (Sam’s favorites) hang for just two weeks — and you get the sense of what a barn-raising that was.
Mark announced in 1996 that he wanted to convert, something apparently he had been quietly thinking about for years. In the early 1990s, we’d found a good church home in Sacramento, at St. Francis, during, of all things, the time when they were retrofitting the sanctuary for earthquakes and Mass was being held in the school gym. Mark said he hadn’t known such a spiritual home when he was growing up, which always made me a little sad. I know there were times as a child I didn’t get what church was about, but there were times that I did.
The first year after Mark died, I came to help switch out the tapestries between Lent and Easter. There was a team of volunteers who did it regularly and they welcomed me. Once they knew I was part of the team that stitched it together, I got peppered with questions, as if they were historians that had just stumbled upon the best primary source ever.
They had a burning question. Was is true, that one of the Easter tapestries had a bit of a parishioner’s wedding dress on it?
Yes, I said, pointing to the tapestry that we had made.
Now, don’t get excited, dear Internet people, it wasn’t a piece of my wedding dress. Mark and I were such hipsters back in the day, I made our get-married-barefoot-on-the-beach-in-Kona clothes of a buttery linen. This tapestry is filled with bridal fabrics, but full of shiny silks and satins and sparkly lames and organzas.
Two Dominican nuns designed the work and set up all the volunteers with the patterns and fabrics needed. They included a little extra for errors.
Our team didn’t quite cut all the fabric at once, which we maybe should have, but we were also worried about losing track of some pieces. By the time we came to the very last piece, there wasn’t quite enough of the creamy white, rich brocade the sisters intended. We nearly panicked. No matter which way we turned the piece of remaining fabric and pattern, we couldn’t make it work.
Marcy, one of the volunteers, studied it closely. “It looks like my wedding dress. I bet I have enough fabric left,” she said. We were stunned when she brought the piece the next week. It was almost a dead ringer for what the sisters had given us to use.
We decided to sew it on and tell the sisters later. They thought it was a great solution, but the story still turned into church folklore. As my friend, Donna Fielder says, now that I am too old to die young, I see that’s what people do with certain stories.
Each Easter season, I get a little misty when I see this tapestry, knowing that Mark’s signature is on the back with mine and that of our friends and knowing the year the tapestry was started was the year he was welcomed into the church.