121317-blm-loc-1crossstitch

Several of the 26 holiday cross-stitch panels that will be sold at silent auction Thursday at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center are displayed at the Normal hospital. Margery Smith of Bloomington, a former BroMenn hospice patient, stitched the panels in the early stages of dementia before passing away in 2008. 

Advocate BroMenn Medical Center, for The Pantagraph

NORMAL — When dementia began to take hold of Margery Smith’s mind, her artistic side continued to shine.

More than two dozen of her final creations — intricate holiday cross-stitch panels — will be auctioned Thursday to fund resources for grieving families through the department of mission and spiritual care at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal.

Smith’s daughter, Jane Flanders Osborn of Bloomington, said her mother was “unconventional” — an artistic woman who wore blue jeans in an era when women only wore skirts.

Smith volunteered with Community Players, designing sets and costumes and directing performances.

“She always had a project going. She was always painting or knitting huge afghans out of soft wool and cotton,” said Osborn, a former hospice volunteer.

After Smith’s husband, Gene, died in 2003, the signs of dementia began to show.

“She was drifting,” said Osborn. “She would have good days and bad days.”

Smith forgot how to operate the stove or TV remote. After Smith broke her hip in a fall, Osborn and her siblings made the decision to move her to a nursing home in Bloomington.

In the early stages of dementia, Smith created dozens of cross-stitch panels, mostly of angels or holiday scenes.

But after a time, the illness began to steal her mom’s creativity, too, Osborn said.

“She’d try to find her creative place but it was gone at that point. It was difficult for her and for everyone. You can’t comfort someone about losing that,” said Osborn.

After receiving care from Heritage Health in Bloomington and BroMenn Hospice, Smith passed away in 2008.

Osborn and her siblings chose to donate a box of the festive cross-stitch panels to BroMenn in gratitude for the hospice care she received.

The panels will be sold individually at a silent auction from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday in the hospital’s first-floor atrium walkway. The auction is open to the public.

“I think she’d be delighted to know her art was going to a better purpose. I hope they bring joy,” said Osborn.

The Rev. Mollie Ward, director of mission and spiritual care at BroMenn, said the donated panels show that, even after death, people's actions can continue to touch lives.

“Funds raised from these panels will purchase items that will continue to bring comfort to people who are grieving," said Ward. "Ms. Osborne experienced the care of people reaching out to her when her mother was dying, so her family is paying it forward in gratitude. That ripple will continue. I think it represents the holiday season well.”

Follow Julia Evelsizer on Twitter: @pg_evelsizer

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