I always knew my cooking contest friend, Patrice, was special. Over the course of many years, I came to know and admire her through her award winning recipes. The lady from Minnesota could bake and cook like no other. Having learned from her much-loved elders, Patrice had developed a beautiful appreciation for authentic ethnic ingredients and time-consuming procedures like stretching strudel dough. She had what I like to call “the knack”. Great instincts when it comes to baking are a gift and Patrice had that.
When I learned that Patrice would be competing with me at The National Festival of Breads I was thrilled to finally have the chance to meet and spend time with her. Turns out that Patrice is extraordinary. Her loving instincts go far beyond her baking. She is truly a walking, talking angel on this earth. Her heart is the kind that knows what people need when they don’t know what they need themselves.
So, it came as no surprise when I learned of Patrice’s latest project. She volunteers in her local hospital’s PETAL program; Parents Embracing Time After Loss. Patrice is sewing burial gowns for stillborn babies. The gowns are made from gently used and deconstructed wedding dresses. As Patrice explains: “The theory is that a beautiful wedding dress is worn on a day filled with joy and happiness … and it possesses certain “magic. Wrapping that magic and physical love around a baby during its final moments and burial creates a human link in the circle of life and love.”
I won’t lie. The thought of a mother choosing a burial gown instead of decorations for her baby’s nursery makes me sad, but when I asked Patrice why she got involved in such a program that big heart of hers just overflowed with this response, “I’ve always believed that mothers are the keepers of the universe, and that there could be no greater pain for a mother than the loss of a child – no matter how young, no matter how old – so I just knew that one day I would love to participate in a program like this.” And so she does. During this extremely difficult time, Patrice plays an important role in the love and support of these grieving families.
Given little information to start Patrice participates with her whole heart and goes above and beyond what is expected. “The size of an actual preemie was a mystery to me, so I took a couple of small dolls to the maternity department and received some answers. A tiny 31-year old doll that had been a gift from my first daughter to her newborn sister provided the pattern for my dresses. A very early stillbirth results in a baby much too small for conventional preemie clothes, and these babies were usually wrapped in a small hospital blanket or washcloth. So, besides the preemie and full term gowns, there is also a need for a cocoon or wrap for the tiniest babies. While the satin was pretty, it seemed much too cold and harsh for a cocoon, so I lined the wraps with soft white fleece. While it’s an honor to create something like this, it’s a somber day of sewing. I’m always mindful of who these gowns and wraps are intended for, and I think about that with every stitch.” Yes, she is a walking, talking, sewing, crafting, baking angel and I am so fortunate to call her friend.
Thank you Patrice for all you do to make this world a more loving and peaceful place and for sharing this special family-favorite award winning cookie recipe with Good Grief Cook. My husband can’t stop eating them.I am going to have to hide the rest or there will be none on the Christmas cookie tray this year. <3