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With dignity: Quilts help usher those who pass with dignified draping

Anu Thawani, a registered nurse at Sacred Heart Health Care Center in Austin, thought her flight to San Diego at Christmas would be uneventful — but as it turned out, it was a lot more than that.

Sitting next to her was Carol Hancuh of Eagan, Minnesota, and it wasn’t long before the two were chatting.

Soon, Hancuh was speaking of her love of quilting and that prompted Thawani to tell her about Sacred Heart, where she worked.

When a resident passed at Sacred Heart, the body is placed on a gurney as staff wait for a funeral home to transport the remains. The staff would regularly place a quilt on the body, to cover the remains and, at the same time, provided a dignified covering.

Carol Hancuh, from left, Anu Thawani and Sacred Heart director Kim Klingfus hold up one of two quilts Hancuh doanted to Sacred Heart. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Carol Hancuh, from left, Anu Thawani and Sacred Heart director Kim Klingfus hold up one of two quilts Hancuh doanted to Sacred Heart. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

The quilt regularly used was one that had been provided a long time ago and its age was showing, Thawani said. Although the intention was good, many washings had taken their toll on the once-beautiful piece.

The meeting was fortuitous. Hancuh wrote a letter to Thawani in January.

“The light bulb came on and I am now home making your nursing home a couple of dignity quilts …” she wrote, promising that when the second one was finished, she and friends would take a road trip to Austin, to present the quilts to staff.

“ … having a soothing, pretty quilt to look at instead of a black bag is much more comforting,” Hancuh said in her email.

On Friday, Hancuh was as good as her word. She brought two quilts and enjoyed lunch with the staff before presenting the colorful pieces.

Sacred Heart director Kim Klingfus holds up one of two dignity quilts donated to Sacred Heart by Carol Hancuh. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Sacred Heart director Kim Klingfus holds up one of two dignity quilts donated to Sacred Heart by Carol Hancuh. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

The first shows a lively spring scene that is awash in pastels; the other, which Hancuh says is more masculine, has a blue background and has an eagle in flight. The 4 foot-by-8-foot quilts are designed to cover the right dimensions of a gurney.

When Hancuh opened and spread them out, a collective intake of breath could be heard.

Director of Nursing Kim Klingfus fought back tears when she saw the quilts.

“They are so beautiful,” she said, as staff stopped to admire the work.

“I never imagined anything like this,” said Thawani.

Hancuh seemed stumped when someone asked why she felt compelled to make the quilts.

Her tears came, too.

“Just because,” she said, with a smile. “You have to give. I get a lot of support from my friends for my quilting — and I just need to give, too.”