WHAT'S IN A NAME?
Rarely do I take photos for people feeling the weight of the value of them before I even click the shutter on my camera. Of course there’s value behind the family photos you do for Christmas cards, your wedding photos and the day to day ones of your kids being goofs.
However, the value of a photo of your baby who passed away, or a loved one with a terminal illness who will soon leave this earth is priceless.
That value weighs heavy on photographer as they hit the elevator button to step onto the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) floor. As time goes so does our memories. Smells fade, that laughter you remember slowly disappears from your memory, or how tiny they were when they were born.
When memories fade we can turn to photographs to remind us, to take us back. Sometimes not to a better time, but to a time when that loved one was there, beside us or in our arms. It can remind us of the details that may be slipping away.
I volunteered for an American organization called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep for about a year. I was very heavily active doing sessions for this organization, but eventually other volunteers slowly left and the weight of the sessions was difficult. I quickly realized that there were more families that I wanted to offer photography sessions to who didn’t fit their criteria.
I let my own membership lapse and continued offering sessions at the Children’s Hospital, but also reached out to anyone who I felt had been through a dark time, or had a family member(s) who were dealing with a terminal illness in addition to the sick infants or stillbirths I was photographing.
In November I had my fourth baby, two days later, I received a call from the Children’s Hospital asking if I could come do photos on the NICU ward? I was crushed, there was no way I could do it. I was still recovering from delivering my own new baby and also didn’t think emotionally I could handle it at this time. But I couldn’t say no, and deny a family in need of this service.
So I called in a favor and asked a friend if she’d be willing to go in my place. It happened again, at this point I was at a loss. The need was so great for this service, but I was 2 weeks into sleepless nights and learning what the chaos of 4 kids was like. I got a phone call from one of the Palliative Care nurses. She told me I should start my own organization, by doing that I could have multiple volunteers and have them vetted and oriented so they could go when I couldn’t. I loved the idea but was going to sit on it for a couple of days first before making any decisions.
Less than a week went by and a doctor from the Palliative Care Team called me telling me she’d heard I was starting my own organization, and oh, by the way, I have another NICU baby for you to photograph. This was it…. Decision made.
6 months prior I had reached out to some family friends who’d just had a new baby and asked if they’d be willing to guinea pig for me and let me do their newborn photos in their own home. They let me come to home and do their photos of their new family of 5.
Fast forward a couple of months later, I found out that Daryl (the father) was diagnosed with cancer of the bile duct. The importance of these newborn photos just before he was sick increased dramatically.
Daryl is fairly well known in our community here in Winnipeg. He helped design many cover albums for local musicians, branded Brazen Hall Kitchen and Brewery and has worked on creating countless websites for many people. And… He was a photographer.
He also with his wife Corrie, lost their first baby approximately 10 years ago.
Knowing Daryl was extremely knowledgeable in all things branding, creative and photography as well as understanding the importance of memories to look back on when you’ve lost a baby, I felt like he was the right guy to try to at least bounce a couple of ideas off of. He also had more free time than he liked being on chemo treatments, so he had lots of time to chat, and was thankful for the opportunity to help pass the time.
“Daryl, I’m going to start my own organization doing photos for families with terminal illnesses…. And I need a name, any suggestions?“ Daryl obliged, of course. “Absolutely, I can come up with some! It may not be the name you choose but hopefully it helps as it comes from a place of sincerity.“