Northwestern Medicine

Angel Sculptures Handcrafted by Daughters of Former Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital Patient Provide Comfort to Families Grieving Infant Loss

Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital December 23, 2016

Hand-sciplted clay angels honor grieving familiesWINFIELD, IL – Next to the photos of her four children, Melissa Callister has five little statues to remember the five babies she lost in utero. To honor her “five little angels” Callister’s daughters hand sculpted 60 clay angels to provide comfort to families at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital (CDH) who are grieving a pregnancy or infant loss.

Residents of Naperville for more than ten years, the Callister family recently relocated to Alpine, Utah to live closer to family. But Callister’s heart remains tied to CDH in Winfield, Ill., where she delivered two healthy babies and where staff supported her through her pregnancy and infant losses.

“The compassion and commitment of my doctor Dr. Mark Morrison and nursing staff in labor and delivery at CDH always made a very difficult time more bearable. They were angles themselves,” said Callister. “I wanted to find a way to bring families who are suffering a little peace and happiness in a time of great sadness.”

Callister was inspired by clay nativity scenes molded by her daughters, 14-year-old Grace and 12-year-old Ella. When Callister saw the angels, she says she thought of her baby statutes and knew these angels could bring comfort to families who are suffering. Over three days, her daughters created 60 angels holding little babies.

“When I lost my babies, CDH provided a care package of beautiful items -- handmade dresses, a tiny beanie for my son. These items symbolized our children’s humanity and are cherished gifts for our family,” said Callister. “I wanted to provide something tangible to families who experience loss to let them know their babies are not forgotten. They will be a part of your family forever.”

Adorned with a small card that reads “in memory of our four angel sisters and angel brother”, the angels are unique with different skin and hair colors to reflect a variety of nationalities and races. They are provided to parents in a memory box that also may include a locket of hair, footprints, photos and other keepsakes.

“The angels are so precious. You can tell they were made with lots of love and care,” said Lisa Sullivan, MSN, Clinical Director, Labor & Delivery and Prenatal Education at CDH. “Families impacted by pregnancy and infant loss go home with empty arms. They have nothing but memories. The keepsakes help validate the loss the family is feeling.”

Callister says she hopes the angels provide strength and help families create positive emotions, similar to the love she feels when she looks at her own five statutes.

“I feel we were inspired by our deceased babies to do this angel project. This was their mission. To provide healing to others who are suffering,” said Callister. “For those families experiencing loss, I would tell them that as they reach out with love, compassion and empathy to other families who are suffering, they will honor the life and memory of their angel babies.”

I take great comfort in knowing that my babies are still serving a purpose and bringing a little peace and happiness in a time of great sadness. This is one way to honor their beautiful, short lives.”

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