We received our first wedding dress donation last night and we couldn’t help but get a lullaby gown going. The dress was donated by the very sweet Mandy Rich and when it got to my hands it was a plastic wrapped cardboard keepsake box all sealed and prepared for preservation. At first I carried it to the location it would make its transformation without really thinking twice but when it came time to actually break the seal of the plastic, I almost couldn’t do it. I think that opening anything preserved will make you second guess the choice to do it. This dress was preserved because there were memories and hopes attached to it. It wasn’t just a random dress worn for a random night. It was a dress of celebration and love. It would be that same thought that finally allowed me to make the first cut and open the box. This dress that once served a beautiful purpose of love, will have a second chance at doing that for many, many people. When finally opened, the gown was laid to perfection inside this beautiful white box. It was folded just right so that all the detail of the lace and beading was shown. It had tissue paper with it as if you were opening a present. We pulled the gown out in awe. We hung it on a hanger and much like a bride would do on her wedding day, we stood and admired it. My mom and I just looked at each other as if to say “I’m not cutting this dress”. It was a few photos later that we took it down, laid it out very carefully on the ground and started mapping the first cut. We ran our hands along the dress from the top to the bottom. Over all of its seams and all the details, until we landed on the perfect spot. A small portion of the train soon was folded and prepared for the first cut. Just like that, there was no turning back. We cut and sewed, added detailing around the edges and slowly but surely we were holding a beautiful gown for a beautiful baby. We took more fabric from the train and began working on the bonnet. Only the tiniest of heads could fit in it, although we know we will be making them much smaller still yet. We enjoyed the process together. The mood was quiet and humble, yet we were happy for the gift. This wedding dress, and its new beginning as one of many lullaby gowns, will now not only fulfill its purpose of celebration, but its new purpose in comforting sorrow and clothing heavens angels. Thank you so much Mandy for your donation. You have provided many gifts to many people you may never meet. We hope God blesses you in many ways as well. -Autumn Doan, Tender Mercies Foundation of Southern Illinois.