The Grace of Giving

Captivating. Radiant. Beautiful. Graceful. Stunning. Pretty.
Absolutely gorgeous. Lovely.  Ravishing.
 

These are words that one would use to describe a blushing bride on her wedding day. Walking down the aisle, everyone who is watching has a thought, a word, or a gasp of expression for the beauty that is synonymous with a bride in a wedding dress. There's something about the lace overlay, tiny buttons lined up down the middle of the back, the white flowing Chiffon, Charmeuse or Satin fabric, the plunging neckline, cinched in waistline or the trailing veil. It's a complete package of nothing less than amazing beauty, every element seemingly necessary to help you feel as special as you are on your day. Wearing a garment as special as a wedding dress creates a punctuation mark on the journey to cross over from life alone to life with another person. The walk through this threshold is brief but meaningful, filled with emotions, it’s definitely a pivotal moment in your life and every detail matters.
Shopping for that one dress, though, is the chore of a lifetime. Especially if you do it with friends or family attached. No offense, but it’s not the easiest thing to search for something as special as this dress will be, with opinions, voices, critiques, dare I say judgments all swirling around the bridal shop or the changing room and eventually working their way into your head. And then there’s the sales people who are trying to be there for you, but having you try on a dress that makes you look like you’re wearing an oversized tutu doesn’t help. You know what I’m talking about! And it takes approximately 20 minutes and four pairs of hands to help you get one dress off and another dress on. Only to realize that it doesn’t zip or button in the back but the dear salesperson says, “Don’t worry, we’ll take your measurements and fit one to your exact size.” That’s great, but already, my mind has interpreted that as “What do you mean I can’t wear a size 6, I always do.” Which incidentally, in wedding dress world, your perfectly normal, everyday size is at least two or more sizes higher. Talk about playing emotional mind games. It would be enough to have any bride-to-be break down on the platform in front of the largest three way mirrors you’ve ever seen.
 

Regardless of the stress involved, there’s a day when you say yes, to the dress and everything falls into place. You get married in front of your friends and family, have a beautiful and romantic honeymoon, return home to open gifts, then the dress goes in a box or in storage never to be worn again and life goes on. But that doesn’t have to be the end of your beautiful dress. Unless you are just so sentimental and hold on to everything, there are other options for repurposing that dress that will bless others. Not all of them are as joy-filled as a wedding day. But they are grace filled and just as beautiful, definitely pivotal moments and every detail matters. At least to the parents it does. Let me explain.

For about a year, I have been on such a journey to repurpose a wedding dress. It would have been mine if I had absolutely loved it and were in the right frame of mind when I purchased it. High stress moment, filled with voices that weren’t my own, I succumbed to purchasing a dress that in the end I didn’t like or want. I blame the Nazi lady, but we won’t go there right now. So, the overwhelming guilt of spending money uselessly has haunted me but motivated me to find another user, wearer, owner for this dress. I contacted many places that turned it down, placed ads in the various places, with no or at best frivolous replies. So there it hung in the closet, still in the dress bag. Still waiting to be passed on.  I prayed over this dress many times that the Spirit would lead me to the next rightful owner, whoever that person is, wherever they are at that moment. I envisioned connecting with a future bride who might not be able to afford a dress but desperately needed one to make her feel special. It would have been my utmost pleasure to do the right thing and gift her this dress. Just for the joy of knowing that it changed someone’s life. But that wasn’t the plan the universe handed me. It gave me one that I wasn’t quite prepared for, but knew immediately was the reason I hadn’t been able to gift it until now.
 
 
A few months ago I ran across a news video from a Facebook page, 11Alive in Atlanta. My friend Julie Wolfe works there and her news team posted a story about a group called Rachel’s Gift. I was captivated by it, but by the time it was over, I was crying buckets, went right into the ugly cry, knowing in my heart that I needed to send them my dress. Rachel’s Gift is a non-profit organization named after a little baby named Rachel. About 7 weeks before Rachel was born her parents were in a car accident. They were immediately rushed to the hospital, but Rachel died 2 hours later and was stillborn the next day. The grief stricken parents had to prepare to bury their baby rather than bring her home to the nursery that had been prepared for her. One thing you never want to think about is how to dress a baby that you’ll never see again. As you can imagine leaving the hospital in order to find that special outfit must have been excruciatingly painful, emotional and you would just feel wrecked. Necessary but difficult. It was out of pain that this group was started so other parents wouldn’t have to go through the same experience. They have a group of volunteers who create burial gowns. They make these out of donated wedding dresses. The soft satin material with tender details of lace is carefully crafted into clothing, and then donated to hospitals, then given to parents for their baby. Adorned in these gowns, creating a punctuation mark on their journey, they cross over their own threshold, however brief, into heaven, safe and sound, the day filled with emotion, a never-to-be-forgotten pivotal moment for the family. But every detail matters.

The group also provides grief counseling for families, a package of keepsakes of their child, including plaster kits to collect hand and footprints, pictures, a photo album, and a guide book to help through the process. They are committed to walking through this experience with parents and want none of them to feel alone ever. It’s quite a network of resources to help in this special time. Go to their website, http://www.rachelsgift.org/index.php, if you want to know more, donate or volunteer.

I’m at peace now, knowing my dress that previously had so many negative memories attached can now have brand new ones. I prayed over the dress one last time as I laid it carefully in the box for shipping. This time it was different, it was not for the bride to be, but instead for the tiny little babies who would be wrapped in the fabric and held by their parents one last final moment. That they would look beautiful, peaceful, sweet and graceful in every way.  I prayed for the parents and the comfort they would need. And for them to find solace in knowing they would soon be reunited. And if they didn’t know this, someone close to them would muster up the courage to open their heart, embrace those parents and give them hope and assurance that their baby is safe, at peace and being cuddled and loved in heaven.

Mission accomplished. Gift given with grace.