“Mother has asked that you make her burial dress.” The caller was my sister in Texas. Our mother had been in and out of the hospital there for several months, a victim of cancer. We knew that her final days were near.
At the time (1962) I had established a career in New York as a designer and creator of costumes for Broadway shows and nightclub revues. At one time, Mother had helped me in my work and was familiar with it.
“I think it would be entirely too traumatic for me to attempt, but I will find something suitable in the shops here.” I answered. I closed my studio, sent the help home and began my search for a dress. I searched the best shops and even canvassed the garment district to no avail. My mother had good taste in clothes and this final garment had to be just right.
Finally, hot and tired, I sat down on a park bench and faced failure. “If my sisters are strong enough to do all the disagreeable tasks necessary to care for a dying cancer patient, then I am strong enough to make her the most beautiful burial dress any mother ever had.”
I got up and headed for a shop that specialized in imported laces. As I entered the shop my eyes were drawn to a bolt of magnificent ice-blue lace. Without looking further, I purchased the necessary yardage. Then, I bought the silk and findings to complete the gown. Tired and emotionally drained, I went back to the studio and the job ahead.
The phone was ringing as I put my key in the lock. “You have decided to make it yourself, haven’t you?” It was my sister again, and her statement startled me.
“How did you know?” I asked. What she told me has baffled us all to this day.
The nurse wanted to bathe and change her patient, so my sister went for a cup of coffee. When she went back to the room, Mother was in a semi-coma. She was talking to someone and reaching out as if stroking and feeling something. “No,” she said, “Tony is making me the most beautiful dress. It’s the most beautiful blue lace and I just want to touch it.”
I think Mother was with me when I walked in that shop and saw the blue lace. The next two days are a blur in my memory, but mother got the beautiful blue lace dress made by her Broadway designer son’s own two hands.
-Tony Midnite, Chicago, Illinois