At the end of last year I started volunteering with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. It is a charitable organization that provides photography services to families who have babies who will never leave the hospital. Occasionally these babies have severe birth defects and aren’t going to survive very long, but often, these babies are born still. The common response when I tell other photographers that I volunteer for NILMDTS is “I could never do that.” When I tell non-photographers, they just seem to have a hard time wrapping their heads around the concept. Is it emotional, yes. Is it hard, yes. But it is definitely something I have a heart for.
As most of you know, we lost our son almost 9 years ago. I know intimately the pain of the loss that these parents are going to. I also know that there is very little you can say to ease their pain, but this is something I can do.
It makes sense that, as a photographer, images are very important to me. I spent the days after my son died combing through anything I could find to compile all the images I could find of him. I justified it by saying that I was preparing things for the slideshows for his memorial service, but I think it was my way of trying to cope.
(this great song was written by Songs of Love with the direction of my older 2 daughters)
I was lucky. We had him for almost 3 years so we had hundreds of pictures of him. They bring me so much comfort. Some people aren’t that lucky.
Years later, when one of my closest friends found out that her son had a severe birth defect and was only expected to survive minutes or hours if at all, it was important to me to be there for her. Even when it meant jumping on a red eye, cross country flight to go directly to the hospital, there was no question that I would be there. I was so honored to not only meet Mathew but be able to capture some of the only pictures of him and his sweet sister.
For privacy reasons, I can’t share the the images I shoot for NILMDTS, but most of the time the images I capture are the only images that they will ever have of their child. Difficult…. yes… Sad… yes… but knowing that I am giving these families a gift they will cherish for the rest of their lives, I am honored to do it.