In my newly adopted home, Traverse City, Michigan, is a community center named Michael’s Place, whose function is to welcome and care for individuals and families who are grieving the loss of loved ones. My dear friend, Chris Dennos, established Michaels Place over 15 yrs ago and it has grown from a small nucleus serving children of affected families to a thriving community offering grief classes and support groups for all ages, as well as serving area schools whose students and faculty have experienced a collective loss.
They also sponsor an event 4 times a year, Create-A-Keepsake, when families are invited to bring in their loved ones clothing or other memorabilia and work with volunteers to create a pillow or stuffed animal from these items. I’ve latched on to this event like a barnacle, not letting go. The process of working with a child ( and/or parent) to conceive and execute one of these keepsakes is a slow and steady one, and allows for a lot of story-telling, listening, laughing and compassion. Every time I volunteer at these events I come home filled with gratitude.
I’m pictured above late 2015 with 4 keepsake bears made for a family of kids who had lost their mom a few months before. Each bear was made out of a pair of her pajamas.