Love on a Mission: Mamie’s Poppy Plates

Adding tiny prints to a precious plate.

Adding tiny prints to a precious plate.

Mamie’s Poppy Plates is a donation supported non-profit whose mission is to provide tangible mementos to families who suffer child loss.  Our keepsake plates, given to affected families at no charge, are customized with the baby’s footprints, name and birth information. Mamie’s Poppy Plates exist not to fill the impossible void of loss but to serve as a timeless reminder of their baby’s brief yet profound life.
Read more of Mamie’s story here:
http://mamiespoppyplates.com/mamies-story/

I knew of Mamie’s Poppy Plates before Mallory died but, I confess, I thought they only supported still birth, miscarriage or infant death. I was wrong. They graciously support any family that experiences the death of a child. The day of Mallory’s visitation was a blur, we hugged and cried and hugged and cried until the funeral home literally asked us if we could wind it down as it was time to leave for the evening. In fairness, they had given us well more than an hour of extra time due to the overwhelming turn out. I think more than 600 people came to see us that night. I remember snippets of the night, small pieces of conversations, or a moment I shared with someone but mostly it is a blur of tears and sadness and final moments looking upon the angel face of our darling child. She would be forever four. As she laid there not sleeping, though she looked to be sleeping. No, this was no sleeping child in front of us, this was our deceased baby. The angel we were supposed to have the privilege to parent for her whole life was gone. We did parent her for her whole life. We just had no idea that her life would be so short. One thing I remember quite clearly, are the few moments I shared with Sarah and Britney as they came to show us love and support. I recall very clearly when they stepped into the doorway of the room where I was receiving people. I saw Britney’s familiar face first and then Sarah’s and their hugs may have been tighter than even those of my own family. Those girls knew the hurt, the confusion and the fear we were feeling. They also knew that night was only the beginning of a lifelong journey for us.
A few months passed and I learned that Mamie’s has an annual 5k race called Race to Remember. Not only is it a fundraiser for the nonprofit, it is a time for families of child loss to gather with friends and family and community members and remember their beloved children. Many of these families and friends proudly run or walk 3.1 miles towards a finish line as they honor their lost little loves. Some prefer to stand on the sidelines and cheer us on as we race. That is welcomed and appreciated, as well. Really, isn’t that pretty much what this life is? A race that we run as boldly as we can, hoping that friends and family will cheer us on as we go. Race to Remember happens in June, close to Mamie’s birthday, which I feel makes it extra special. Since I had just begun running in April, I recognized that the Race to Remember in June would be a great goal for me. It would keep me running and focused on the reasons I began to run in the first place. I made up my mind that I would run the race as my first official 5k. We set up a team page and asked folks to join us or donate to the amazing cause. When race day came, June 15, 2014, I was ready for the run. What I was not ready for was the overwhelming feeling of emotions I would experience on race day just from walking into a crowd of people I knew had all been touched by child loss. On race day, I looked around at the crowd and I knew that we were all there for the same reason. It was both beautiful and tragic. I felt understood in a way that I had not since Mallory died but I also felt sad that so many families were hurting just like us. There is a balloon release each year before the race to commemorate the little souls that went before us. As we released balloons into the air, I recall thinking how very not alone we are in this grief. It was both comforting and heartbreaking at the same time. I believe there wasn’t a dry eye anywhere in the place. Witnessing that many people remembering their children is powerful. It is a testament to the love that endures past death. There is no way to explain to you the bond you feel when another bereaved parent shares their heart with you. Sarah is not just someone I admire, I am fortunate to now be able to call her my friend.
The month immediately following the 2014 race I attended my first volunteer night at Mamie’s. Once a month, volunteers gather to prepare plates to mail out to families. This includes, checking the birth stats and names, adding tiny feet and hand prints, carefully boxing the plates and addressing them for mailing. It’s an evening attended by women and men wanting to lend a hand. Some have been directly touched by loss, others are just moved by the mission of the organization. It had only been 10 months since Mallory died. That night was very profound for me. I was astounded by the number of plates we were processing. I had many mixed emotions as I reflected on the fact that each one of the plates in the room represented a life lost too soon. It also represented a mother and father broken from the loss of their child. At the time, I already understood the need for the services that Mamie’s provided and at that moment I also understood that the need will never end. the accompanying photo is from my first volunteer night. I am preparing to add some very tiny footprints to a very special angel’s plate.

Over the last year, I have volunteered a number of times with Mamie’s. Each time I feel that I am fortunate to be able to offer some sort of help to this organization. Their mission was born of a personal tragedy and Sarah, with the help of her sister and their mother and many, many other passionate folks involved with this group, has turned that into a mission of love. Love for the grieving hearts of mothers and fathers everywhere. It reminds me of a quote from the great philosopher and poet Rumi:

“The wound is the place where light enters you.”

Sarah has allowed the light from her own wound to shine onto others by graciously sharing Mamie’s story with the world. She and members of her team have gone to hospitals and funeral homes to take prints of the little hands and feet of the children that are gone too soon. Can you imagine the strength it must take to do that? Now imagine the strength it must take to do it after losing your own child. I cannot say that I would be strong enough for that task. Sarah pours her heart and soul into this mission. It is remarkable that from her deepest wound came incredible amounts of light to spread and share with people not only in Arkansas but all over the county. I honestly feel that I have been blessed to watch her and her sister and their mother as they work. It is truly a labor of love, a work from the heart. Sadly, there is much more work to be done as the need to support grieving families persists.
This year Mamie’s Poppy Plates will again have their Race to Remember in June. Race day is June 6th. If you feel compelled, come and join us. Run with us, walk with us, make a donation, or just come on out to cheer us on. We would be honored to have you on our team.

You will find our personal Mallory’s Grace Team page here:
https://mamiespoppyplates.z2systems.com/np/clients/mamiespoppyplates/campaign.jsp?campaign=39&fundraiser=9388&team=47&
You may register (or donate) as an individual here:
http://mamiespoppyplates.com/race-to-remember/