Remembrance photography helps families grieve -


Remembrance photography helps families grieve

It's hard to believe the joy of birth and the sorrow of death can happen in the same breath.

"Whether she came out breathing or not, we knew we weren't going to have Ella for years to come," said Christi Hancock of Virginia.

Her daughter, Ella, was born with Trisomy 13. It means she had an extra chromosome and her organs did not develop properly. About 80 percent of babies with this disorder live only minutes, maybe hours.

"When she was born, there was just that frightening silence. Then she let out her huge cry and so we knew that we at least were going to have a few minutes with her," said Hancock.

Hancock and her family wanted to make sure their first moments with baby Ella would last a lifetime, which is why the family invited professional photographer Anthony Rumley into their hospital room.

Rumley is a volunteer and area coordinator for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, a national non-profit that pairs photographers with parents facing the loss of a baby.

"No matter how long or how short a life, I feel it should be celebrated and that's one of the driving forces behind the remembrance photography," said Rumley.

In a moment's notice, he could get that difficult call from any hospital, to show up and capture the final moments of a life cut unbearably short. The pictures are free, his work almost like a ministry.

"It's really part of the grieving process. It used to be it was very taboo, not to speak about the loss of a child because people didn't know what to say to comfort them," said Rumley.

He sees this as a gift, but it's not an easy one.

Some, like baby Ella, are in the final days of life. Other times, the babies are in the moments after they have already passed away.

"We've had situations where the moms weren't even able to hold their child because they were so distraught," said Rumley.

The lens is a sort of protection for Rumley, but the emotion of what he does is never really shut out.

"You feel the emotion that was there and you kind of have to breathe a little bit," he admits.

Christi Hancock is forever grateful.

"It's an amazing gift for families who are going through an incredibly hard time and it's a way to cherish and remember their baby," said Hancock.

Ella was a fighter and hung on for three whole months. She died in her sleep at home. To her mom, the pictures are worth every word, every thought, every emotion. 

"Just to still remember every detail about her face and her head and her toes. She was still our baby whether she lived or not. She was still a part of the family," said Hancock.

There are several photographers with 'Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep' working in the Richmond area and they are looking for more volunteers to help take these pictures.

You have to be a professional photographer that can handle emotional situations. You can find more information by visiting his website.

Copyright 2013 America Now. All rights reserved.

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