Losing a child is devastating, a feeling only people who have experienced it can understand. It was with that idea in mind that Gwyneth Bent approached Pat Taylor, fellow water aerobics participant at the Coronado municipal pool in 2017. Bent had found out Taylor had lost an adult child, her 40 year-old daughter Mandy from epilepsy.
Bent had lost her son Brian in 2006 when he was 29 years old. Brian was a waterpolo player who had made a name for himself at Coronado High School, and subsequently at UCLA. He had been the captain of the Junior Waterpolo Olympic Team. Brian passed unexpectedly of an undiagnosed heart condition. The Brian Bent Memorial Aquatics Complex is named him.
When Bent heard Taylor, who lives in North Park, had recently lost her adult daughter she approached her in the pool because she knew what her friend was going through.
Taylor recalls the conversation. “She told me, ‘I want to talk to you’ and I said ‘I don’t want to talk to you,’” recalls Taylor who thought Bent was just going to tell her how sorry she was about her loss.
Then Bent explained that she also had lost an adult child. Taylor realized then that Bent was someone who understood what she going through. Since that day Bent and Taylor have been close, and Bent describes their friendship as “We’ve been joined at the hip.”
In addition to seeing each other at water aerobics, they often have lunch together, share a love of books and make recommendations on their lates reads. Taylor explains that she can call or email Bent anytime and open up to her. “She gives me something to go on with,” said Taylor of her friend.
Bent had a boxful of her son’s waterpolo and school attire as well as pennants she kept over the years that she wasn’t sure exactly what to do with. Then she had an idea. She knew that Taylor had made quilts with her daughter Mandy before her passing, so she asked her if she would make one for her with Brian’s items.
“I said yes. What else could I say?” recalls Taylor.
Bent offered to pay for the work but Taylor told her to donate money to the Mandy Taylor Legacy Fund for Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) Research instead and to Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE). Taylor also told Bent that because of the variety of Brian’s items she needed a consultant, a professional quilter to give her advice. Enter Peggy Couvrette of Lemon Grove, a professional quilter who was the mentor for the project.
Taylor first started quilting after taking one class in Atlanta and when her daughter, still a child, saw what she was doing she told her mother she wanted to learn. As time passed it turned out that the student became better than the master. Mandy went on to win many quilting events over the years. The Brian quilt, as it became known, was only the second quilt Taylor had made without her daughter. In the past she and Mandy, who had lived in Atlanta, had mailed the quilts back and forth to each other creating different parts.
The Brian quilt took her six weeks to make and Taylor gave it a lot of thought in its creation and execution. For example, Taylor fashioned the pennants into squares and placed them so they hang on each side of the quilt, and used fusable material for the t-shirts squares so they wouldn’t stretch out.
The pennants were precious mementos given to Brian after games played against other countries when he was captain of the Junior National Waterpolo team. Other squares in the quilt include a Union Tribune athlete of the week t-shirt, the word Coronado from his school jacket and the No. 11 from his ball caps. There is even an apron from the time Brian was three years old that reads “Briant Bent Specialties.”
For Bent to entrust Taylor with her son’s items was a big step. “I wouldn’t trust anybody else with his things,” she told her friend.
Taylor decided to make another smaller quilt for Brian’s sister, Courtney Duryea with one No. 11 she had left from one of Brian’s caps. She made the small quilt using her daughter Mandy’s fabrics, incorporated the No.11 and included a heart button that belonged to her daughter.
“Not only did Gwyn lose a son, Courtney lost a brother,” said Taylor as her motivation to make the smaller quilt.
Taylor was going to present the small quilt and a letter to Courtney at a recent monthly luncheon of the water aerobics group at Miguel’s on Aug. 26. On that day Bent also brought the quilt to the workout and later to the luncheon to show the rest of the group what Taylor had made.
“I’m just so amazed she agreed to do it. It was asking a lot…when you lose a child it’s so painful. I knew quilting was something she did with Mandy,” said Bent.
After the quilt was finished Bent moved it around the house until she found a good place for it. “It’s in the downstairs bedroom, I pass it all the time,” she said.
“It’s a true comforter; Gwyn is comforted by Brian’s stuff,” said Taylor.