The loss of a child is a devastating experience for a mother and father, particularly when that child has only lived a short time. To make matters worse, parents are burdened with other concerns that make bearing the grief nearly impossible. Arranging funerals can take exorbitant amounts of time, energy, and money, all of which are usually in short supply for these young, grieving families.
One LDS woman is seeking to lighten the load. Melody Penrod, a resident of Springville, has created a non-profit charity organization called Tender Mercies, which repurposes donated wedding dresses into appropriate burial clothing for infants.
In October 2014, Penrod’s heart was feeling heavy. “I had the strong impression I was supposed to be doing something different,” she said. She desperately wanted to be of service to others, to bring comfort to those in need, but she wasn’t sure what she had to offer.
Penrod made a New Years’ resolution to discover this hidden purpose. She found the answer quickly, after reading online about a desperate need of grieving mothers. Many babies pass away due to miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and finding burial clothing for these sweet children is often a challenge—after all, some of them are only about the size of your palm.
In talking with bereavement counselors at local hospital NICUs, Penrod was shocked to learn that they usually didn’t have any fabric to clothe a deceased child in, so they often wrapped the body in a washcloth or paper towel before returning it to the mother. It was this revelation that moved her to action, Penrod said. “I had a strong feeling that this was my calling to serve.”
After finding a small dress pattern (and redesigning it in three smaller sizes), Penrod began her project. An accomplished seamstress, Penrod and other women who sympathized with the cause sewed and delivered over 200 beautiful burial gowns to three different hospitals.
“Every baby angel deserves to have a beautiful gown to wear to heaven,” Penrod said. Because of this sentiment, Tender Mercies uses only the finest fabric. That means there is a constant demand for the unused threads of formal dresses—and Penrod happily accepts donations. “Since I started this service project, many women have been very gernerous—donating their wedding gowns, prom dresses, temple dresses, fabric, lace, ribbon, and money to help,” she said. “Some of these women have been holding onto their wedding dresses for over 60 years.”
Anyone wishing to contribute used dresses or a monetary donation can send it to Tender Mercy Angels at 221 East 2475 South, Springville, Utah 84663.