Susan Gibbons 2017-11-30 06:01:50
I lost a baby in September of 1993, not many of my family or friends know. At the time it was something one didn’t talk about. It was years ago, but there will always be a space in my heart and in our family for our “baby that returned to God.” Losing a baby is a time of grief, of a darkness that words can’t quite describe. Even when it’s not a secret, it can be a time of isolation, a time of withdrawing to heal. One Traverse City woman offers a glimmer of light to those in the depths of loss. This past September, Tonja Carlson donated 40 Angel Gowns to Munson Medical Center’s Maternity Department, including 12 that were made from her mother’s wedding dress. Carlson shares that she first heard of this idea from a post on Facebook and it made such an impression that she remembered it years later. The NICU Helping Hands’ Angel Gown® Program originated in 2013 to better support families who lost a baby. One way the program provides comfort is through the gift of a beautiful custom gown for the baby made from a donated wedding gown. “There is no greater gift that can be given to a grieving family than affirming the importance of the life of their child.” (www.nicuhelpinghands.org/programs/ angel-gown-program/) The garments, worn on a day celebrating love, are a gift of love to wrap the precious baby in for its final journey, honoring not only the baby, but the family as well. “They are absolutely beautiful!” exclaims Michele Fernandez, Maternity Manager at Munson. “It’s a great gift. The patients love them, and the babies do look like angels.” Katie Grice, RNC-OB, adds, “It’s a special thing. These are so meaningful for parents to have for their baby.” The gowns add a special touch to photos Munson nurses take of the babies for their families. Carlson, who has lived in Traverse City most of her life, lost her mother, Marjorie Pifer, in 2012. It wasn’t until her father passed in 2015 that she inherited her mother’s wedding gown. “What am I going to do with this?” Carlson initially thought. Even though it was a family heirloom, it was old and frail. The gorgeous white, satin, and lace gown had been worn three times. The first when Marjorie Speers said, “I do” to Allen Pifer on September 1, 1956. The second time by Carlson’s Aunt Neta (Juanita) on her wedding day, and lastly by her sister Tamara on July 4, 1987 when she was joined in holy matrimony. Carlson then remembered the Angel Gown story and started googling. Pifer was a Traverse City nurse for 50 years; the last 22 as a nursing supervisor at Munson. Nursing runs in the family. Pifer’s mother, Carlson’s grandmother, was also a nurse for 50 years and Pifer’s two sisters were nurses. Several of Pifer’s bridesmaids were classmates at the Bronson Methodist Hospital School of Nursing. The Angel Gown program usually selects where the gowns are distributed, but Carlson was determined the gowns be gifted to Munson Medical Center, as a way for her to honor her mother’s memory, time of service, and love of nursing. “I know she would love this idea,” smiles Carlson with a touch of sadness in her eyes. “My mom and I talked every day.” Carlson, who is also a Michael’s Place grief support volunteer, eventually located Barbara Stover, a Michigan Angel Gown seamstress. The program seamstresses donate their time and often materials, like thread and buttons. The gowns are lovingly sewn in a handful of sizes, complete with embellishments, like vests and bow ties for the boys. Each gown comes with a handkerchief for the baby’s hand- and footprints, a keepsake of the life that was lost. “The gowns are so pretty, so gorgeous!” enthuses Carlson, whose remaining family thinks it’s a wonderful idea. “And my Facebook family loves it!” The Angel Gown program is made possible because of wonderful donors and the volunteers who have often experienced the loss of their own baby or another loved one. Love and loss is sewn into each stitch, putting a little light into someone else’s darkness. They are looking for seamstresses to create the treasured gowns. For more information, please contact email@example.com. Susan Gibbons has been a Northern Michigan freelance writer since 1999 and wrote this in memory of Baby M.
Published by Families First . View All Articles.
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