One from the Heart
I did not know of Julie's Mission until I met Dee Brantley, the founder. She is a light of hope to many who are suffering, and an example of acceptance of God's will through her response to her own suffering. Dee lost a grandchild. Little Julie was born full-term but only lived 21 days. She found difficulty, as would all of us, finding healing for an event of such deep sorrow. All 21 days of Julie's life were spent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and when she passed, her family was dazed and distraught. They held each other while staring blankly outside. From nowhere a butterfly appeared on the window and seemed to send a message of hope. The butterfly was to become the symbol of this wonderful group.
As Dee Brantley said to me: "I sat up in bed in the middle of the night, nearly a year after Julie's death, and I heard a call. I was truly guided into this endeavor to quiet the grieving process in others who had suffered as we had with Julie's passing. Julie's Mission was born in my heart and has grown ever since."
What exactly is Julie's Mission and what is their commitment? By their own definition, "We provide loving handmade articles for critically ill newborns and their families. Our group of volunteers, which now numbers more than 300, sews, knits, or crochets blankets, hats, booties, diaper shirts, incubator covers, crib accessories, and memory clothing. For the families who must say goodbye to their child, our volunteers sew tailored memory dresses, layettes, and memory envelopes, which are designed to hold cherished items such as documents, pictures, footprints, and pieces of clothing." To date, this group, headquartered in Sun City, has provided a total of 8,000 handcrafted items to 35 hospitals, both locally and throughout the United States.
They are a local organization with eight chapters in Beaufort County. Dee emphasizes that they are NOT a national organization. All of the beautiful items they send to hospitals are handmade and they are simply exquisite. I have held some of these tiny items in my hand and they barely covered my palm. It is hard to imagine how a child can be so small. The infinite love put into making these items shows.
Of all of the lovely items Dee brought to share, my favorite was something called a "Lovie." Made of the softest material I have ever felt, they come in various shapes, but all have the same function. The mother of a child in intensive care sleeps with and holds the Lovie near to her. It takes on her scent, and then it is placed in the crib or incubator with the infant, who can now know their mother's love.
Many who have lost a child find difficulty even talking about how they feel. Recipients of memorial gifts, the beautiful handmade items, form a kind of sisterhood. This is an aspect of the mission in Julie's honor that Dee did not foresee. As the membership of volunteers grew, she found that many of the ladies had lost children and they started to share their experiences with her. Dee says, "Thank goodness we have come a long way and we can now express ourselves. We can share, we can comfort, and we can give back. I am only a grandmother. Can you just imagine what the parents of a critically-ill infant are going through? The hardest thing is to let go and let God. He is guiding the doctors, nurses, and personnel. We can love and pray and bargain, but ultimately it is all in His plans and hands. This has been a very hard lesson for me to learn, while watching so much pain and suffering, even though my goal is to lessen that hurt."
Turning sadness to peace-of-mind is the goal of the memory layettes. They consist of a blanket, hat, or intricately designed gown or pants. These are often made of donated wedding or bridesmaid dresses and are literally works of art. They also make isolate covers, which are designed by volunteer sewers or quilters, lay on top of incubators, and then are given to parents. Many times the items are used for "going home," but sadly, other times they are used by parents for final goodbyes or burial.
Dee Brantley emphasizes that all of their items are made with love, and there is never a charge to hospitals or parents; this is her mission, their mission.Julie's Mission!
I can only imagine what a difference it must make to grieving parents to know that someone else has been in their shoes and really deeply cares. Thank you Dee Brantley and all the wonderful volunteers of Julie's Mission.
How can you help? All of the materials used by Julie's Mission are either donated or provided by the volunteers themselves. They may be contacted at www.juliesmission.com.
Their symbol is a butterfly and their mission
is to knit, sew, or crochet items with their hearts and hands for critically ill infants. Julie's Mission is truly "One From The Heart."