The December chill doesn’t quite have the same sting as it once did for Monica Lee, a resident of Battle Creek. Kathy Gardener, an Olivet resident, has made sure of that.

It’s been 12 years since Kathy reached out to Monica unexpectedly with a special gift — one that brings Monica tremendous comfort every December.

Kathy, who started making grave blankets more than 30 years for her daughters who passed as small children, donated a grave blanket to Monica in 2006 after hearing how she had tragically lost her only daughter.

“To think she was thinking about someone else at that time,” Monica recalls. “Kathy is a beautiful woman. My baby is warm every year. It gives me a warm feeling.”

Monica has ordered a grave blanket for her daughter ever since, and has added a grave blanket for her mother as well. Monica said it brings her great comfort to know her daughter, who died on Dec. 2, is warmed by the blanket throughout the cold months.

Kathy said she identified with Monica’s story after hearing about it on the news and knew she needed to reach out to her. 

“I’ve been there, losing someone close to you,” Kathy said. 

She started making grave blankets after losing two daughter 35 years ago. Her daughters passed in October and she said she recalls thinking about how they were going to be cold all winter. That’s when she first learned about grave blankets, and the concept brought a feeling of comfort for her daughters. It’s a feeling she said people often convey to her about her creations.

“I hear a lot that blankets are a comfort,” Kathy said. “Our loved ones aren’t with us physically, but they are always in our hearts. The blankets provide a comfort to us and color to the cemetery.”

Kathy donates at least one grave blanket each year, often to a family like Monica’s. 

“It changed my life losing my girls,” Kathy said. “This is a legacy I can carry on through my daughters.”

The blankets are made from fresh pine branches and weigh 25-30 pounds. They are anchored in the ground before it freezes. Kathy said she is very particular about the colors she adds through flowers and bows. Each takes about an hour to create. She said she cuts down about 11 big trees from a local tree farm each year.

To order a grave blanket for your loved one, call Kathy at (269) 274-3266.