A heartfelt moment all too quickly took a bittersweet turn.
While in palliative care at the Chemainus Health Care Centre, Linda Malvena was part of a Quilt of Valour presentation from the Crofton Quilters group to her grandson Lindsay Mitchell. Her wish had been granted and she died just two days later from the effects of liver cancer, leaving the family with a very poignant and emotional memory.
“I always sleep better with one of Nana’s quilts,” said Mitchell. “I think the first one she made me I was seven or eight years old.”
Mitchell, now 30, served in Afghanistan for 216 days from October 2009 until May 2010 as a grenadier/first aid attendant and spent three more years in the military after that before returning to civilian life. He’s worked at the Pacific Northwest Raptor Centre in Duncan for the last six years.
The Quilts of Valour are intended to provide comfort for Canadian Forces personnel past and present and as a way to honour their service.
In March of this year, Malvena asked Victoria and Southern Vancouver Island Quilts of Valour Canada Society representative Lynn Carroll if Mitchell qualified to receive one.
“I immediately said to Linda if he qualifies after she told me his story — I’m sure he does — we’ll see he gets his quilt and she was thrilled.”
Carroll recruited the Crofton Quilters of which Malvena was a member to complete a 10th anniversary quilt for Mitchell since his deployment.
John Malvena, Linda’s husband of 58 years, said she had a passion for quilting “probably forever since its inception — a lot of years.”
Linda was a regular at the Crofton Quilters gatherings Friday mornings at the Crofton Seniors Centre — wouldn’t miss it for the world.
“Quilting and life kind of go hand-in-hand in the Malvena family,” said Mitchell. “I’ve had a lot made for a lot of significant events and this was another one.”
“That’s what she wanted for a celebration of life — quilts everywhere,” noted John. “Not everybody gets to find their thing and it certainly was her thing — quilts and Labradors.”
Linda’s celebration of life is Saturday, Sept. 21 from 1-3 p.m. at the Crofton Community Centre.
Mitchell is so appreciative because his quilt marks a significant family connection as well as the military aspect.
“It was very emotional,” conceded Carroll, who lives at Arbutus Ridge in Cobble Hill and has found Quilts of Valour a great volunteer outlet after retiring from an Alberta cattle ranch six years ago.
“To be honest, it was the hardest presentation I ever had to do.”
There are currently 58 representatives like Carroll across the country who promote the activities of the society, encourage membership, coordinate the efforts of volunteers and present quilts.
Like all the others, Mitchell’s quilt contains a label with his name, date of the presentation, the group that made it and an inscription that reads “handmade with love, respect and gratitude for your sacrifice to Canada. May the hugs stitched into this quilt give you comfort, strength and love.”
“When we wrap the quilt around Lindsay, I tell him it’s a hug from a grateful nation,” said Carroll.
“It’s an heirloom,” she added. “It can be passed down to any of the members of your family.”
The quilts are all donated, documented and recorded and provided free to the recipients, with the thinking they’ve already paid for them in a profound way through their service.