Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" Remarkable Photo Ministry

I don't think these people will object to my calling what they do a ministry, but it is just that in the finest meaning of the word.

They provide memorable photographs of dying babies for grieving parents.

Get a kleenex.

Here is the story.

The day Maddux Achilles Haggard died, an idea was born.
It began in the hearts and minds of two mothers, one with a dead child and the other who understood her pain and could offer comfort with a camera. It began because Cheryl Haggard wanted something more than just a snapshot of the baby she would never bring home.

She wanted something elegant and artistic, like the photos that graced the walls of the maternity ward and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Presbyterian-St. Lukes. A real portrait of Maddux for the family's own wall, next to the pictures of the Haggard's three older children. Cheryl wanted a way to preserve the memories of the little boy she had loved and lost.

On the last of Maddux's six days on Earth, his parents reached photographer Sandy Puc, who had taken the photos in the hospital that Cheryl admired so much. You have to come tonight, Sandy was told. Tomorrow will be too late.

It wasn't until she arrived at the hospital that Sandy finally understood what they wanted her to do. Take pictures of Maddux tethered to all the tubes and wires that were keeping him alive — and one thing more.

"Would you wait until he passes away and photograph him after that, so Cheryl can really hold him the way she wants?" Mike Haggard asked her.

Sandy was shocked. "A big part of me didn't want to do it, but I knew I had to do it," she said. "So I said yes."

Sandy cried through the photo shoot, and afterward, thanked the Haggards for the privilege. She did it all for free.

"If this is all she has, I want to give her the best I can," Sandy said. She made each photo perfect, then put together a slide show set to music. Then she left the Haggards alone in the studio to watch.

They looked at the pictures over and over again, and when they emerged more than two hours later, eyes puffy and red from crying, Cheryl gave Sandy a big hug.

"Do you know what you've done?' she said. "You've given me my son."

Three weeks later, Sandy got another call from the hospital: Could she come photograph a baby who was going to die?

When she arrived, the baby was hooked to machines and couldn't be moved. "The only thing the parents could do was touch his hand, touch his head, kiss his head," she said. "How could I tell them, after he passes away, I'll come back and photograph them holding him?"

She called Cheryl and asked her to contact the family and let them know about the photos Sandy had done for her. And that's when the idea bubbled up between them — that every grieving parent should have the chance to have beautiful portraits of their baby, and they shouldn't have to pay for them.

Cheryl printed up brochures on her computer and took them to hospitals. Almost immediately, they received their first call. By April 2005, just two months after Maddux died, they had nonprofit status and a name, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.
As the word spread, more calls came in — about babies born too early, babies born dead and babies about to die. Babies that parents had said hello and goodbye to in almost the same breath. They were all babies that somebody loved and wanted to remember.

"At Christmas time last year, I did eight babies in 12 hours," Sandy said. "It was so depressing and hard. Every time my cell phone would ring, I thought, 'I can't do this anymore.' "

She needed help, so she put out the word herself. A successful portrait photographer, Sandy was a popular lecturer and photography teacher who wrote for professional magazines and had many corporate sponsors. She could easily reach thousands of colleagues, and she began telling them about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.

The result: a roster today of 3,000 volunteer photographers nationwide and in eight countries. But the group needs many more; it still can only fulfill about 80 percent of the requests they get, executive director Jessica Roe said.

More at the link...

Link to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

This is Risawn's personal story, with pictures, about the passing of her neice. I have been following her blog for some time. It was through her that I became aware of this group.


Arah said...

Hi I am Kami's(Risawn) sister, Olivia is actually my daughter. I used NILMDTS and you can find the pictures Heather took of her on my blog.
I posted about NILMDTS also.
You are welcome to use a better photo of her if you like.
Thanks, Arah

Hoots said...

Readers are urged to read this story first-hand. See the pictures and marvel at the steadfast faith of a beautiful Christian family.