Memory Boxes at MISS Minnesota
Interview with Heidi Ciepielinski

Editor's Note - A story ran in the Echo Press about the MISS Chapter in Minnesota doing a memory box project. Heidi forwarded that story to me and I asked her to write me a bit about the project to share with all our Kota readers. Here's the scoop:

Question: Are you doing this memory project as part of Tera Leigh's memory box project?

Heidi: It's funny that you should mention Tera Leigh and her memory box project. I found her on the internet after Natalie died, (almost 3 years ago now), I was searching for something to hold Natalie's things. I was almost obsessed with finding the "perfect" container, it couldn't be ordinary, it had to be beautiful. I searched endlessly not finding anything that I thought was "right". Then I saw Tera's boxes and knew they were exactly what I was looking for. I wrote Marie Gemmel and asked her if I could possibly purchase a box and described why it was so important to me. Shortly afterwards Tera wrote to me and said she was in the process of painting me a box and refused any payment. I was amazed and touched beyond words at the generousity and kindness of a complete stranger. It was one donation that I couldn't refuse.

I have the most lovely pale yellow large oval box with pink and blue roses, vines, yellow ribbon and it says, "in an instant, you touched our hearts forever" on the top. Inside, her name is printed inside a heart of roses and vines. Obviously, the box is enormously important to me.

I had inquired about getting the boxes to our local hospital but we don't have a bereavement program so we didn't qualify.


Question: So what are the details of your project?

Heidi: I have thought about organizing something similar in our area for the past 2 years. Then the funeral home approached me with a picture from a California newspaper about a very similar program, with the same type of boxes. I was thrilled to be working with them on this project and we planned to have the mothers do the basic painting and the artists club to do the final detailing. I was in charge of pricing the boxes and supplies.

At the next meeting the women from the funeral home told me that they had arranged for much smaller wooden boxes to be made by craftsmen and the art club was going to paint them. And they refused to give any of their wooden boxes to mothers who have lost babies in the past, including the mothers in my group who were looking forward to participating.


Question: Oh, that's so sad! And wrong! So you have decided to do an alternate project through the Minnesota MISS Chapter?

Heidi: To make a long story a bit shorter, tonight at our monthly meeting, we are having a project night and meeting at a local artists workshop. The mothers will be painting and creating their own paper mache boxes with the help of some volunteer artists.

What a project this has turned out to be! But you understand, it's oh so important and worth every bit of the effort.

Question: GREAT! So glad to hear you've found a way to help ALL the bereaved parents in your area! Any other memory project coming up next?

Heidi: Now, I'm trying to figure out the plan for making the sachets [for the memory boxes]....I'm determined to make them smell like baby lotion and have them look as beautiful as the boxes they are going into and as the precious contents they will hold.

It's always something!



About the Interviewee:
Heidi Ciepielinski is the Minnesota State Facilitator for the MISS Foundation where they offer free bereavement support meetings on the 2nd Tuesday of each Month, at 6:30 pm, at the First Congregational UCC Church, 221 7th Ave. W. Alexandria, MN 56360. Please be in touch with the MISS Foundation at for more information.

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