Ted, the best man in our wedding, leaves today for Afghanistan for the next 12 months. He will be working for USAID, a branch of the US State Department there. My husband Bill and Ted met in college and lived and traveled the world together. They went together to live in France, Kenya and Japan. They backpacked across Asia and their friendship has spanned three decades as well as Ted’s postings for most of the last 15 years in Africa.
When I heard that Ted would be going to Afghanistan I offered him a vial of sand. You see, when I was on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France last June and thinking a lot about who shapes history and the bravery that it takes, I scooped up an empty water bottle full of sand. I wanted to keep that sand with me for a long, long time. It wasn’t that it reminded me of the death that occurred on those beaches. That sand reminds me of the leadership, sacrifice and bravery that it took to face something so formidable. Although I love what I do, I did feel, standing on that beach, a bit of envy for those whose work impacts large numbers of people and change history for the better. When I look at that sand I think that most anything is possible. Ted’s willingness to leave his wife and three young children for a year to try to help stabilize the political situation in Afghanistan is truly admirable to me. I told him that our country is lucky to have him and that I know he will represent us well.
I explained the meaning of the sand to Ted and he said that he would like to take some with him. Then he surprised us by saying that even though he can only take two suitcases with him, he wanted to take our Pick-Up Sticks quilt with him as well. That quilt, shown above in our dining room a few years ago, Ted said, would add some cheer to his living quarters. His living quarters in Afghanistan will consist of a retrofitted steel cargo container. Yes, a cargo container—as in, those things that you see on trains or in shipyards. That will be what he will be living in while in Kabul.
I’m so glad that he wanted something that we had already made because I think that I would have been a neurotic mess making it knowing the role that it will have in his life there. I would have obsessed over it wanting it to be more beautiful and more cheerful and more homey. We made his kids and wife a Minkee-lined throw to snuggle with in his absence and that was hard enough. “Will they like it? Did we get the right color of Minkee? Is it the right size?”
I’m going to ask Ted to email some pictures of the quilt inside the cargo container in Afghanistan. I hope that when he sees it each day it will remind him that we are cheering him on and admire his willingness to serve the world in this way. Godspeed Ted.
4 thoughts on “a quilt and a vial of sand”
what a beautiful story and tribute to your dear friend on his way to Afghanistan! My son is in the Army, and on his way there soon. He is taking a large group with him. We need to continue to pray for all those that go over to help with the effort there. They are putting their lives on the line to help! God’s blessings to your friend Ted and to you and your husband for your dear friendship!
That is such a great story and I totally get what a relief it is that he loved a quilt already made! Not to romanticize conditions in Afghanistan, but the fact that he will be living in a retrofitted cargo container is not necessarily horrible. In fact, after seeing a beautiful example of one at the Shelbourne Museum, we thought about building one of these kind of houses when we left our midwestern bungalow. (Do a google search, you’ll be amazed at the creativity and re-inventiveness. It’s kind of quilt-y, too, if you know what I mean). Again, I don’t want to make it seem like I think the army is doing these lovely modern designed houses, but I thought you might enjoy the possibilities.
Best wishes to you all and your friend, Ted.
I am so moved by your message. It warms my heart to think of my “little buddy,” Ted, having his Bill and Weeks funquilt with him, and your sharing the sand is such a big and meaningful gift. You and Bill are terrific friends and amazing people. I am sure Sophie is, too- Thanks for sharing this–he will do great things, i am sure! All of us in Ky send you all hugs;
Omaha Beach really puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? We visited in 2003….. since my husband worked in the World Trade Center, we decided after 9/11 to do things NOW. So many people he knew went to work that day (that beautiful blue-sky day) and found that they had no tomorrows. We stopped waiting for tomorrow and started doing things we wanted to do now.
So we went to France, and saw Normandy and Mont St. Michel and the Bayeux tapestry and ate lots of mussels and crepes. Life is unpredictable, but lovely.