Climb Every Mountain: a Quilt Story


Have you ever felt you are exactly where you need to be in the universe? If so, you will understand how I feel when I look at the Climb Every Mountain quilt that hangs majestically on cousin Nora’s huge wall above her king-sized bed. Her sister, Lynne, made the quilt and though I’ve never asked Lynne, I feel certain she chose that pattern because Nora has climbed so many mountains in her lifetime.

She and Lynn grew up with their parents on a small family dairy farm in a small dairy community.

Life there was peaceful as Nora grew up and she became fascinated with the earth that surrounded her. I didn’t know Nora then (her father and my former mother-in-law were siblings) yet in my mind’s eye I easily see her endlessly exploring the hills and meadows on the farm with quiet fascination. After high school and college, she went to Alaska for an advanced degree and became a geologist, studying rocks all over the world that told her much about how our earth was created. The only continent she has not visited is Australia.

Nora’s work brought her to the desert a few decades ago and she settled here, then retired a few years ago. Her desert home is a living, breathing reflection of her love for the earth: outside, the house is surrounded with rocks and desert plants, landscaping that Nora has done over the years she’s been here. Inside her home, reside more rocks, many with fossils, quietly sitting in nooks and crannies, on shelves, window ledges, and some gathered in boxes on the floor. If you look closely at the headboard in the picture, you’ll see a pint Mason jar. It contains ashes from Mount Saint Helens.

After retirement, Nora continued her world travels, hiking into new places and climbing more mountains. Last Thanksgiving she flew to Virginia to spend the holiday with our small family. It was a memorable several days: making seven pies the night before Thanksgiving (for six people), hiking, catching up after many months, and simply enjoying each other’s company.

During her Virginia stay with us Nora mentioned experiencing numbness in her right arm and soon, after returning home, went to a doctor. Within a few days of testing, Nora learned she had glioblastoma, stage IV brain cancer. We were all stunned, not Nora, who had one of the best brains in the family, who had always led a super healthy lifestyle. It was irrational thinking in those first days; we simply couldn’t process it. Until everything changed very quickly: surgery that removed much but not all of the cancer, plans for treatment, a flight to Houston for a second opinion, a return home when they could offer no more than Las Vegas, chemo and radiation simultaneously that have been completed today, seizures that left her right side partially non-functional, and most recently, clots in her lungs, which are now dissipating.

My daughter, Susan, stayed with Nora during the past six weeks, then needed to return home. On Easter Sunday I flew in to stay indefinitely. I had known on a visceral level that I would share this journey with her.

Now, as Nora climbs the most difficult mountain of her life, we’re able to walk together for part of her journey. As she has done all her life when she quietly and determinedly reached for each of her goals, she is working very hard. We all affirm she will overcome this profoundly unwelcome stranger in our midst.

There is still that one more continent to explore.

About Mary Jo Doig

Mary Jo Doig was the first in her family to attend college and graduated from the State University at Oneonta in New York’s Catskill Mountains with a degree in Secondary English Education/Educational Psychology. There she fell in love with rural life, remained, and eventually transitioned from city girl to country woman when she married a dairy farmer and raised their three children on their small family farm. A life-long lover of reading and writing, Mary Jo has for nearly twenty years been a member of the Story Circle Network. There she has been an editor, a women’s writing circle facilitator, a book reviewer, and life-writing enthusiast, working extensively with women writing their life-stories while writing her own memoir. Presently, she is a three-time Program Chair for SCNs national Stories from the Heart conference and a board member. She also facilitates Older Women’s Legacy workshops and a women’s life-writing circle in her area communities. Her stories have appeared in Kitchen Table Stories anthology, Story Circle Annual Anthologies, and most recently her story “I Can’t Breathe” was published in the Anthology, Inside and Out: Women’s Truths, Women’s Stories. Her work also appears in varied blogs and periodicals, on her blog Musings from a Patchwork Quilt Life (, Facebook, and Twitter. Her son and two daughters grown, Mary Jo presently treasures her country life in Virginia’s Central Shenandoah Valley. She loves cooking (and eating!) healthy food, reading, writing, quilting, hiking, and spending quality time with her rescue cats, Button and Xena, and beagle, Addie, who each dream of being only children. Her first book, Patchwork: A Memoir of Love and Loss, will be published in October, 2018 by She Writes Press.
This entry was posted in Change, Childhood, Courage, Family, Gifts, Gratitude, Health, Mother Nature, Quilts. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Climb Every Mountain: a Quilt Story

  1. Elaine Ercolano says:

    Sorry to hear about your aunt. Norma seems like an amazing woman. Remembering how caring you were of your mother during her illness and final days, you are the perfect companion for Norma’s last walk. Thoughts and prayers are with you both, Elaine


  2. Mary Jo Doig says:

    Thank you, Elaine….


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