Rhonda Gehman, besides being a talented artist, is the Regional Coordinator and Affiliated Photographer in Birmingham, AL for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. In this special guest post she's done an outstanding job of sharing what being involved with NILMDTS has meant to her as a photographer.
I've read so many comments from photographers who worry about controlling all their emotions if they get involved with NILMDTS client. They seem to think getting emotional is a sign of failure or lack of help in the way it's intended for the grieving family.
The truth is, it's just the opposite. These families need the empathy that so many photographers are worried about showing. They need you, if for just these few hours, to become part of their family and help them through the experience.
This is recruitment month for NILMDTS and they need everyone's help. Finding out how you can help is just a click away on the banner at the top!
Each family for which I have provided Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) services has touched me in a different way. Each family is special, and each story is unique. They all affect me in some form, although sometimes I don’t realize how until years later.
Last month, I participated in a 5K to benefit the grief counseling services of our local children’s hospital. When I arrived at the race and saw the signs that were lining the start/finish line, I quickly recognized infant names and knew that my day was going to be emotional.
I went to the race to recruit…not only photographers, but also community volunteers. I left the race, with more than just a few names. I left with a full heart.
As I stood behind the NILMDTS booth, a lady approached, and I asked her if she knew about our services. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Yes, Now I Lay me Down to Sleep took pictures of my son.” I ask her what her son’s name was. When she spoke his name, “Winter Gilmore”, I was immediately taken back to March 2012. I had been Wint’s photographer.
We stood there hugging with tears streaming down both of our faces. As the memories flooded back, I remembered her so well. She was finally able to thank me in person for the pictures of her precious son. She must have told me 10 times how much the pictures meant and that she had one on the mantel and one in her bedroom. Her next comment blew me away… Wint’s little sister knows who he is because of those pictures.
She quickly rounded up Wint’s dad, her parents and her precious daughter to come over and meet me. Her husband reiterated what the pictures meant to them. He had been cautious and hesitant when the nurse first mentioned having them made, but now he is so thankful. He told me the same sweet stories that mom had just told of how his little sister knows she has a big brother because of the photographs.
To know that a few clicks of my camera and an evening behind the computer editing can help to heal a broken heart, to know that for a split second, my work can help that mom see and smell and remember her baby – that is what Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is all about.
Rhonda H. Gehman