The Answer

I volunteered at Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep’s booth a couple months ago during a tradeshow where they were recruiting photographers to volunteer for their service. If you’ve never heard of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, I encourage you to find out more about them. They are a wonderful organization who sends a photographer, free of charge, to provide remembrance photography for families who are experiencing the loss of a baby.

If you are a photographer who feels called to donate a few hours of your time a month for such a family, please look into it. It is life changing, it is painfully beautiful, and I promise you, those families will never, ever forget the gift you leave them with.

At one point during the time I was volunteering, a man came up and we chatted a little bit. He had done some remembrance photography years earlier and was considering doing it again. He told a story of one of the first families he took photographs for and it’s been floating around in my mind ever since.

He worked at a small local hospital where he had originally been in charge of taking newborn photos—you know, the simple ones that are offered in packages that you can purchase if you choose. At one point, a stillborn had been delivered and one of the nurses called and asked if he would consider volunteering to come in and take photos for that family. He did, and over the next year, there were one or two more. It was a tiny hospital—they had a small number of births, and very rarely a situation that required remembrance photography.

One cold, October morning he was called for such a session and when he showed up, there was a sixteen-year-old girl sitting in the hospital bed with the lifeless body of her son in her arms, swaddled in a hospital-issue blanket. The seventeen-year-old father was there, too, and when the photographer arrived, the father spoke his disagreement about having photographs taken at all, but the mother quietly insisted. Unable to handle watching the body of his son be unwrapped and handled by a stranger, the young father slammed out of the room.

My heart lingers on that part of the story, picturing the boy sitting alone in the waiting room, needing a father of his own.

But no one else was there for this couple. Not one single person.

As the photographer began taking photographs of the baby, handling him gently and with love, the mother, tears rolling down her cheeks, asked, “Why do you do this?”

How are you able, he heard. How can you stand it?

It took him by surprise, that question, and he wasn’t sure how to answer. He paused, and said the first thing that came to his mind. “Because someone should and I can.”

Because someone should and I can.

Those words have been bouncing around in my head all these months later, catching me unaware sometimes, sticking, whereas other things I try to remember fall out of my brain despite my best efforts.

Because someone should and I can.

So simple and yet so profound. What is the thing that should be done that I can do? How can I make this world better simply by giving my gifts? My time? The love in my heart? I find myself asking these questions each time his answer drifts through my mind.

I was volunteering that day because several years ago, the hospital where I delivered my fifth baby called NILMDTS for me and a wonderful woman named Dianne showed up and lovingly took photographs of our stillborn baby girl, photos that I will forever be grateful for, photographs that are proof that Darcy Rose existed, that she had light brown hair, and long fingers, and a nose just like her sister.

Dianne was also volunteering at the booth that day a few months ago, and seeing her again and embracing her was one of the most emotional moments I’ve ever experienced. The last time I’d seen her, I was devastated, shell-shocked, cradling the lifeless body of my daughter, drowning in despair so intense, I didn’t think I could survive it. But hugging Dianne again almost four years later, I smiled through my tears, healed and filled with the knowledge I hadn’t imagined could be true: there is life after such a loss. There is, there is. I promise. There is.

Dianne told me what I hadn’t known then: that we were the first family she was sent to. She had sat in the waiting room, shaking, so nervous that she wouldn’t do it right, as Darcy was born down the hallway, her still body separated from mine, her spirit somewhere far above. As we wept, our broken hearts asking God why, Dianne was praying that she might lessen some of our pain, that she would honor our baby in such a way that would allow us to take a part of her home with us. Stories like Dianne’s come to me like the dawn comes to the night, casting light where once there was only darkness, allowing me to see that despite the vestiges of pain that still linger when I go back there in my mind, I now also see all the beauty, all the love that shone down on that previously dark, shadowed day. I see it clearly and it continues to heal me.

All the questions I asked God, the why, why, why, and His answer was all those people. The ones who cried for us, the ones who sat shaking in the waiting room praying their own prayer to make it better, the ones who brought meals, the ones who sent cards with ink smeared by tears, the ones who showed up, and then didn’t stop showing up, to listen, to cry, to vent to and eventually . . . to smile with.

And somehow it seems our whole purpose in this world might be to figure out the thing we can do that should be done and then to do it with our whole heart. It’s been done for me, and I promise, it has saved my life.

Because someone should and I can.

Comments (14)

  1. Cynthia June 27, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    Beautiful! Heartfelt! HUGS Mia!

  2. Sue Marshall June 27, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    And today I cried all over again remembering that day.

  3. Jessica Frider June 27, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    That was beautiful.

  4. Jann June 27, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    Profoundly resonates in my heart . I live so far from the hospital that I wonder if I could get there in time to honor the small sleeper

  5. Allison Riley June 27, 2016 at 11:27 pm

    What a touching post, Mia. My sister lost a baby at 34 weeks last year. It was so so devastating going to the OB appt. like any other appt and no heart beat. No answers. Just gone. She had a photographer take pictures too and the nurses were great explaining how it seemed a little strange to do but they would be so happy they did it. The pictures, the way she posed Elin, choosing to use black and white paper, she looked like an angel. Thank you for posting. I’m sending this post to her now.

    • Mia Sheridan July 2, 2016 at 3:51 am

      Thank you so much for sharing your sister’s story, Allison and I’m so sorry she understands the deep pain of saying goodbye to a child you’ve never had a chance to say hello to. It is comforting to know others understand, although I wish none of us were in this club no mother ever wants to join. Let her know if she ever wants to talk, I’m here. <3

  6. Margo McGory Moffit June 28, 2016 at 3:44 am

    My own sentiment is similar ~ after watching the first story about baby Maddox, and learning about NILMDTS,
    all I could say was “How can I not do this, when I already know I can?” And I do.

  7. MaryBeth June 28, 2016 at 6:51 am

    Beautifully said. Thank you for sharing and encouraging us to GET INVOLVED.

  8. Lisa McGuire June 28, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    How beautiful and heartbreaking! I love this! Thank you for sharing Mia.

  9. Chanpreet June 29, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    What a lovely blog post Mia! It really and truly touched me. “Because someone should and I can,” is a fabulous mantra to adopt. Thank you for sharing this! <3

  10. Stephanie O'Neill June 30, 2016 at 12:24 am

    I am so moved by your story. I had read a previous post where you talked about writing because you were grieving and I can not imagine the loss for both you and your husband and children. As a nurse I find myself in situations with families who have loved ones who are dying. I have also sat with dying patients until family arrived. I often feel that God places me as their nurse to provide comfort and strength at such a raw time. It makes all of the other nuisances seem trivial. Keep doing what you do! We love you and are so blessed to read your stories.

  11. Livia June 30, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    Wow! “Because someone should and I can.” That’s so powerful. Thank you for sharing this!

  12. Emma James July 2, 2016 at 1:39 am

    Beautiful post. Our nearly nineteen year old son took his life March 20th this year while his brother and sister slept and while we slept. Life changes on such a profound level. I’m looking for my should because I can. I hope that makes sense.

    • Mia Sheridan July 2, 2016 at 3:48 am

      Oh, Emma. I am so very, very sorry for your loss and the devastating pain you must feel. I am praying that you find peace and something that helps you find purpose in the overwhelming hurt. I wish I could hug you.

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