“To ease another’s heartache is to ease one’s own.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
I’ve been volunteering as a photographer with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) since this past December and today I was called out to do my 8th session with a little one who was taken from this world far too soon. I’ve been so busy since the new year that I haven’t had much time to commit to photo sessions. I think my NILMDTS sessions may now out number the sessions I’ve done since the new year. Today as I was in the midst of busy moments I received the call that no other photographers were available and quickly gathered my things to head to the hospital to meet with a family that were spending their final moments with their nearly four month old little girl.
For me the trip to the hospital is always a reflective one that mentally I begin to anticipate encountering highly emotional moments. It’s also a time that I am reminded of my own losses after miscarrying and despite how challenging they have been for me, I realize things could have been so much worse. It’s not easy confronting any of the emotions, but I must admit that by helping others during some of the most challenging moments in their lives it in turn only helps see me through the many challenges I’ve faced this past year.
I arrived at the hospital and had one of the most moving moments before ever meeting the family. It was my first time at Florida Hospital Orlando since their renovations and as I went down the escalator I saw this massive mural that totally moved me so much that I quickly took this iPhone photo of it as I went down the escalator rushing to the NICU.
I swear this mural seemed like sign…a sign that God is listening and standing over me and this family I was about to meet. It was a sign that he would provide us with the strength needed to make it through today. The mural was huge, spanning the height of over three floors of the hospital. It was such a heavenly sight for me to see…knowing I was about to greet a little angel. Beneath the mural was inscribed “In the beginning God created” – it only reminded me of the faith I have that God will continue to see me through my own challenges.
Another uplifting moment was getting the opportunity to meet a fellow NILMDTS volunteer photographer, Paris Carter. Paris just began as a volunteer this past month so she’s been shadowing other photographers, something I never had the opportunity to do. I could sense Paris had the same apprehension I had when I first began. But I’m so thankful we’ve got another photographer on board. I have no doubt Paris is going to do some amazing things for the many families that need NILMDTS. Volunteering with NILMDTS has been one of the toughest things I’ve had to do and it’s definitely not for everyone, but it is by far one of the most rewarding and touching things I have ever done. Every single call I go on my heart skips a beat and with each session I do I realize this is something I was meant to do. NILMDTS is always looking for experienced photographers so if you’re experienced and feel compelled to help don’t hesitate to sign up to volunteer. I recall being so apprehensive and waiting over a year to sign up because I was scared it was something I couldn’t do. So if you find yourself in a similar position and have questions or concerns don’t hesitate to contact me.
By the time we arrived in the NICU the little one I photographed was spending her final moments with her family. It’s always tough because many times we don’t know exactly what to expect before we meet the family. The little one was born with birth defects and complications that she battled for nearly four months. Her family referred to her as a “fighter”. As sad as the moments were today, we all said our prayers and I sent my blessings to the family knowing that their little girl is now resting peacefully. The family said they felt a little better knowing their daughter was now in a better place. As moving as the moments were, it was so heartwarming to feel the love this family had for their little girl.
As I left the hospital I recall looking back at that mural one last time filled with hope. The hope that God will give these families who have lost their little ones the strength to move past such trying moments and the hope that my brief efforts photographing their little ones will help them find the peace needed to help heal their heartache. And the hope that I too will continue to find this same strength and hope to make it through my own losses.