Christmas was always Rick's favorite holiday, and he was one of Santa's best helpers. He loved making simple toys of wood, without batteries or plastic parts that would break off. I enjoyed painting the Christmas ornaments he cut, first with an old scroll saw and later with a new model, complete with dust collectors and a belt sander alongside it on his work table. When we finally were able to finish the second floor of the barn and he moved his work benches and small tools into that space, he felt he had achieved his dream ... a full woodworking shop ... and enough time to make the best use of it.
The fall of 2016 was exhausting ... we saw the roof of the barn finished, the skylights installed, all according to the careful plans Rick drew. Our son was married on a beautiful foliage-filled day. We joined five other small shops for a "Humble Beginnings" shop hop the weekend after the wedding, and worked that with the help of many of our friends. And just a week after that, the driveway for our shops was widened and paved, to make it easier clearing it in the winter with Rick's new snowblower. It was larger and more powerful than the one he had bought when we sold his pickup and plow five years earlier to save money when I retired ... we needed to cut back to one vehicle with my retirement ... but the new snowblower was so large that I couldn't manage it's size and heft as Rick could... until he had shoulder surgery.
Neither he nor I had any idea that he would pass away so unexpectedly, long before recovery, just two weeks after that surgery. Minutes after midnight on Christmas morning of 2016, he took his last breath quietly, with his head on my shoulder and a first responder trying to measure his vitals after my hurried call for help. Rick was concerned because he had a dull pain high in his leg ... he asked me to "call the guys" and I did. He was suddenly gone shortly after they arrived.
Many thought I would sell the house and the shop and move into an easier place to maintain on my own ... a place to begin over on my own ... as I had never been on my own before Rick's death. But leaving our dream ... no, I couldn't think of that. Leaving our home ... no, I didn't want to do that. And so I stayed here.
The first year was harder than anything I'd ever experienced, and I nearly didn't make it. I can't say it has become easier as time went on, as challenges continue to arise with each passing season, but I continue to find ways to deal with those issues. It is hard to believe it has been three years since his death ... it still feels like just yesterday ... fresh, raw, and endlessly unbelievable. His shop sign that reads "Buy them all, we can make more," remains above the quilt shop window, and I take heart each time I look up and read it. I believe he is here in spirit with me ... children believe in Santa, and Rick was my Santa ... and I believe that one day those tools will again be lovingly used to make beautiful things for beautiful little people. Someone like Rick will find a way to use them. Maybe someone in the family, or among our friends ... or maybe a stranger that will be sent to find them.
In the meantime, I'll keep the fabric and notions in stock at Quilters' Quarters to help quilters buy quality goods at reasonable prices. I'll continue to make the emergency comfort quilts for the police and firefighters to carry in their vehicles, in Rick's spirit of kindness. With friends, I'll keep making military service appreciation quilts for our town veterans. I'll happily help young and old learn to use today's special tools for quilting. And I'll try hard to continue believing that one day, when my work here is finally finished, it will be my chance to rejoin Rick in the hereafter so we can resume our happily ever after.
The shop is now closed for inventory, but will optimistically reopen on the Thursday January 9th. Happy New Year, all. I'll work to make the best of it, again.