My adopted mom, Robin, is part of a beautiful ministry called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. Robin is a photographer on the side of raising her two adorable little boys, and does weddings and family photos, etc. But she volunteers with NILMDTS. Hang with me a second while I explain it a little.
NILMDTS gives the gift of photography to families who lose their babies very early in life. Photographers come in on a volunteer basis. When a baby passes away at the hospital, a photographer is called in to take professional-level family photos of the parents and babies. They do a beautiful job capturing the preciousness of these babies and the love the families have for them in the photos. For the parents of these babies, these photos are the only memories of them they'll be able to keep and treasure for years to come. (I'm not very good at explaining this. I linked to their website earlier in this post. Please check it out.)
Tonight, the Apex art museum put up an exhibit of some of the photographers favorite photos they've taken of these precious babies. I tagged along with Robin and two of her sisters, and it was one of the most touching and breathtaking things I've ever seen. On the one hand, it was very difficult to walk through the rooms and see all these beautiful photos and realize that all of them were there because those families no longer have those children to share their lives with. But on the other hand, it was moving to see the love these families had for their children and to see what an impact this ministry had made on their lives and how it had helped in the healing process. The sense of loss was almost palpable in the room - but so was the sense of love, and the sense of healing.
There were so many touching photos there it was almost overwhelming. The one that I think touched me the most was this absolutely beautiful photograph of a set of twins, only one of which had been viable. In the photo, both the boys were laying on their sides facing the camera. The little boy that wasn't viable was in the front, his (living) brother lying behind him with his hand around his brother's shoulder, looking straight into the camera with these dark, captivating eyes that seemed to say that he knew exactly what was going on. You could see in the photo that he knew his brother, could see the comfort he found just in touching him, and you just knew that he was grieving and missing him. I could have stared at that one photo for hours. The emotion of it was arresting.
I felt somewhat like an imposter there. Most of the people there were the families that had been photographed, the NILMDTS photographers, or local nurses who had also known and taken care of these babies. As a 22-year-old who's never gone through anything like that, I felt somewhat out of place. But I realized I was more in place than I thought. Because my family is one of those families. My parents lost their first-born at 6 months old. Matthew Raymond Forrest Gursoy was born 2 months early and was never able to even leave the hospital. To this day we have pictures of him hanging in our house, memories of that precious six months my parents had to love him.
So I see the ministry that NIMLDTS is doing, and I can't help but marvel at it. I know how much my parents treasure the pictures and keepsakes they have from Matthew's life, and the opportunity to have professional, beautiful photos taken for the parents that have no other way to capture the memories they have with their babies is just overwhelmingly touching. Just walking through there had me crying. I'm not very eloquent tonight; I wish I had the words to describe what it was like. It was beautiful and incredibly moving. The photos were gentle and compassionate. At first thought, it seems like something kind of strange to do, but when you see the effect that ministry has on the families it touches, you cannot help but fall in love with it.