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A new way to remember Eliza Mae

I typically steer clear of using this space to give free advertising to a local business.

However, a new one that is scheduled to open on July 25 in Ahoskie is much more than a place where its owners hope to turn a profit. Rather, it promises to be a spiritual place, one where the short life of an infant child will provide the inspiration that there are things much more important than the almighty dollar.

Eliza Mae Brown peacefully entered and exited this world on the same day: October 9, 2019. She was the daughter of two friends of mine, Willie and Ashley Brown.

To say they were heartbroken is an understatement. We grieved with them, but I can’t imagine the pain they felt in their hearts that day and in the weeks and months afterwards…even today.

But what I admire about this husband and wife – along with their small army of supporters (family members and friends) – was their desire to keep Eliza Mae in their hearts and minds forever.

A barbecued chicken fundraiser was held in December of last year where $11,000 was generated to benefit Kennedy’s Angel Gowns who provides free infant burial gowns, which are sewn from donated wedding dresses, to bereaved families. Additionally, they also work to donate Cuddle Cots to hospitals. The cot is a special cooling pad inserted into a baby basinet, which helps extend the time a bereaved family has together after the death of their infant.

In turn, Kennedy’s Angel Gowns presented a Cuddle Cot to Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital, where Eliza Mae entered this world “sleeping” last year.

But the Brown family was far from finished.

From 9 am – 4 pm this coming Saturday, I encourage you to check out Eliza Mae’s Closet, a children’s and women’s boutique store located at 905 East Memorial Drive in Ahoskie.

The boutique will also serve as a volunteer space for pregnancy and infant loss awareness. A space inside the store will be set aside for volunteers to help continue the local support of Kennedy’s Angel Gowns. That space will be used to sew infant burial garments, craft “Mom & Me” memory bracelets, make infant blankets, hats or other items that will be placed in memory boxes. Those boxes will be donated to local hospitals for bereaved families that endure infant loss.

“Kennedy’s Angel Gowns is a non profit organization that reached out to our family in our time of need and we would like to pay that forward to other families by continuing to support their mission,” said Ashley Brown in a Facebook post.

“In doing all of these things, my heart heals. In not letting Eliza Mae be forgotten, my ‘Mama heart’ feels like I am still doing for her by doing for others like her and their families,” she added.

“A few people have asked if we have lost our minds trying to open a boutique, in Ahoskie, during a pandemic. I can see where you are coming from, but we are going where God is guiding us and we are wholeheartedly okay with the outcome, no matter what it is,” she concluded.

So, here is my free advertising plug for Willie and Ashley Brown…..on Saturday, July 25, grab your face mask, get in your vehicle, and drive to 905 East Memorial Drive, located adjacent to Schewel Furniture.

I readily admit my lack of knowledge on women’s and children’s clothing, but the photos I saw on Ashley’s Facebook page tell me that this is a high-quality shop and we need to always support our local businesses.

In this particular case, you’ll also help to benefit Kennedy’s Angel Gowns and help keep Eliza Mae Brown’s name on our lips and her memory in our heart for a long time to come.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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