DALLAS – Her job title at Baylor University Medical Center is administrative assistant. But the little known work that Patricia Rogers is most proud of is something grieving families will never forget.
"It, um, makes my heart happy that I can provide this to them,” she said as her voice cracked with emotion.
Supplies for this side project are packed away in boxes and cabinets above the desk where she tends to her paid responsibilities on the first floor of the hospital. On the counter next to Trish’s computer are the final products; hands clasped in white plaster standing statuesque on a stained wood base.
Each detailed model is of a patient who just passed holding hands with a family member. At this stage, the life-size plaster casts are waiting to be delivered to loved ones of the recently lost.
"I've probably done 400 because just in the last couple weeks I've done about 20. It kind of comes and goes," explained Rogers.
She is not an artist and is no expert on anatomy. But the memorial molds she makes are something people cherish.
Jeanette Cartwright had been sick with cancer for six years, said Janet Hohertz, her daughter.
As they made end of life decisions, nurses mentioned Trish’s talent to Jeanette’s family.
Cartwright’s family did not know Trish when they invited her in to the hospital room during Jeanette's final hours.
"You know originally we thought it was going to be just my dad who would have that hand mold and when she was willing to do it for all of us girls. That just meant a lot to me,” said Lee Mooney, daughter.
In a bucket of wet plaster, each of the five daughters along with her husband, Fred, gripped Jeanette’s hand one final time.
"Once the molds were made, that's when we took her off the ventilator," said Hohertz.
Trish uses her own hands and small tools to separate the plaster from the actual cast. Completing each one takes about two weeks, she said.
In the end, each clasped hand in white plaster is very detailed revealing rings, wrinkles and even scars on the skin.
"You can tell that she loves what she does and this means a lot to her. But she doesn't understand how much it means to us. I hope she will eventually but this means more than we can say in words," said Mooney.
Hands can reveal a lot about someone.
"Some hands are worn,” said Rogers. “You can tell they've been through many things in life. Some hands are smooth because they're kind of young and innocent.”
She's seen those, too.
Each mold costs about $15 to make. For years, Trish paid for them out of her own pocket. Several months ago, volunteers learned of her good deed and gave her money to purchase the needed supplies.
Families are never charged anything.
"When you do things like this, it makes your life not look so bad. Although I might not like holidays. I might not have a home to go home to, but my life is really good," said Rogers.
Ovarian cancer took her own mom's life 21 years ago.
"Well, you never really know what you lose until they're gone. You think of a mother, you think of your home. And there's probably nothing I can tell you that probably truly describes who she was,” she continued.
The memory of her mother is what moves her.
"Probably the longing I have for her probably drives a lot of it,” said Rogers.
It is tedious work but a generous gesture for those families, like her, who want to hold on to more than just memories.
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