Photos by NILMDTS
Marcie lovingly strokes the picture frame, tears streaming down her cheeks, as she and husband Mark gaze with rapt attention upon the beautiful image of their son Aaron. The black and white portrait captured the softness of his newborn skin, the glint of life In his eyes, and the frailty of his brief but meaningful life which they had but few moments to enjoy. Now with his heavenly Father, Aaron’s life is celebrated and remembered with joy each day as his parents, siblings, and family members view the heirloom images of his sweet face, his two little feet, and his tiny fingers as they gently grasp the hands of heartbroken parents. His life lasted only a few hours, but a volunteer professional photographer with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) captured these heirloom images for a lifetime of precious memories.
Since its beginning in 2005, NILMDTS has gifted more than 40,000 complimentary portrait sessions to families in the United States and across the globe. ese priceless images serve as an important step in the healing recovery for bereaved families. NILMDTS remembrance photography validates the existence and presence of these precious babies by honoring their legacy.
The first set of heirloom images portrayed Maddux Achilles Haggard, born on February 4, 2005, with a condition called myotubular myopathy which prevented him from breathing, swallowing, or moving on his own. e following six days, his parents Mike and Cheryl Haggard sat by his side in the hospital with questions that had no answers, trying to create memories of their time together using their own camera. Before they removed life support, Cheryl knew she wanted professional images of Maddux.
They called photographer Sandy Puc’ to take black and white photos of them as they cradled their son. These captivating images document Maddux’s eternal connection with his parents and led to the creation of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep as a nonpro t in 2005.
Speaking of the photographs she and her husband took, Cheryl commented, “I saw our tear-stained cheeks, our red swollen eyes, our forced smiles, and the fear in our faces as we looked into the camera. Maddux deserved that space on our wall. I could not comfortably hang the pictures I had taken. e color images bring back the reality of that day. I wanted heirloom portraits as a way to remember and honor our son and to bring healing to our hearts.” at is when they made the decision to call Sandy, a local professional photographer. As Cheryl now reflects on these images, she shares, “ at night was the worst night of my life. But when I look at the images, I am not reminded of my worst night. I’m reminded of the beauty and blessings Maddux brought.”
Those thoughts and comments can be attested to by thousands of parents, even those within our local area of Huntsville and Conroe, who have suffered the grief and loss of a newborn. Remembrance photography connects families suffering the death of a baby with the free gift of professional portraiture. As Cheryl candidly states, “I never wanted a family to think they couldn’t create these memories because of cost. For a bereaved family, there is no tomorrow; there is only now. ere are no second chances, no retakes. there exists a fine line between life and death, and it is called time,” adding, “NILMDTS photographers capture the love and bond between parent and child.”
When Mike and Cheryl contacted Sandy, she immediately rearranged a busy schedule, knowing time was of the essence. Her time, e orts, and professional images have brought healing, joy, and an ever-deepening connection between Mike and Cheryl and their son Maddux. NILMDTS photographers must be ready, many times on a moment’s notice, knowing the fleeting nature of the situation. Although the organization has a lengthy list of photographers, many more are needed. Prospective photographers can check the website for information on applying to serve as a volunteer photographer. A portfolio of the photographer’s work will be reviewed and, once the applicant has met all criteria and is accepted, additional training is provided. is online training will consist of the following components: how to interact with grieving parents and family members; how to interact with hospital staff; lighting and posing tips for a hospital room environment; how to gently retouch photos; how to provide images to the families; and the timeframe in which to do so.
In addition to professional photographers, NILMDTS also bene ts from the volunteer services of digital retouch artists, dispatchers, community volunteers to help inform the hospital sta on how to deal with these photographic situations, and area recruiters for these positions. To help raise awareness of these needs and to bring this topic into the public’s awareness, NILMDTS organizes area “Remembrance Walks” in six different states and one Virtual Walk. e Remembrance Walk, “Our Journey Together,” provides families a time and way in which to celebrate their children as well as vital connections with others who have lost babies through miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, neonatal, or any type of pregnancy or infant loss. is Walk includes a presentation with readings, music, and speakers. During the event, each baby is honored by having his or her name read aloud, with the optional release of a buttery. Following the presentation, participants will journey together for an optional one-mile reflective walk.
NILMDTS CEO Gina Harris is grateful this subject is becoming more accepted in the public arena. “More people are willing to talk about infant death in recent years. We believe one of the reasons is that through the NILMDTS portraits, we have put a face to the babies by validating their lives through photographs. While the subject is still taboo, talking about infant loss is becoming more accepted, allowing those who have suffered this type of loss to be able to speak about it, rather than grieving in silence.”
NILMDTS has been featured on the Today Show, and ABC 57 News was awarded the 2015 Edward R. Murrow Award for a story on the non-profit organization entitled, “Making Picture Perfect Memories.” It has been featured in Cosmopolitan magazine and a number of other publications as well.
For those interested in serving as a volunteer for NILMDTS or seeking a photographer, please visit their website at www.nilmdts.org. Donations can also be made on their website in honor or memory of a child.
Other contact information is as follows: 7853 E. Arapahoe Ct, Suite 2150, Centennial, CO 80112; Phone (720) 283-3339; Email: [email protected] October