When my son died nine years ago, I was lost in the world of shock, grief, and despair. Until that point, I had never really come to terms with the fact that death is indeed a part of life. Watching your child die in your arms brings that reality home in the clearest of ways. We were blessed in that we had a couple of hours with him after he passed to hold and love his little body, and to also take photos. I wasn’t aware at the time that the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep organization existed (oh, how I wish I had!). And since I was long from being trained in photography at that point, the photos are little more than well composed snapshots.
When we saw Shawn for the first time in his casket, I was amazed at how much better he looked! In the hospital, he had been purple and swollen from all the meds that had been pumped into him, but at the funeral home, his skin was milky white and precious. We were there for quite a while, taking in his beauty, but my memory is very fuzzy as those days were a whirlwind of activity and emotion. I do remember Brian asking me as we stood there if I wanted to take photos. I did, but I was worried about “what people would think” of me taking photos of my baby laying in a casket. People would think I was crazy! Nine years later, I regret with my whole heart the decision to forego the photos. Nine years later, I could care less what people “think.” He was my baby, and he was beautiful laying there . . . some people have a lifetime of photos of their children–what I would give for just a few more of my sweet first born.
We did end up taking several photos of his tiny casket as we tried our best to prolong leaving the graveside. Those photos are some of my favorites. The bright and beautiful flowers were indicative of the hope of Heaven we found amid the sorrow. Those photos are important to no one else but us, but they give us one more connection to our baby that was gone too soon. I’ve found that I treasure any memento, trinket, or visual connection with him.
Since those days, I have longed to be able to minister in my own way to other grieving families. And not just to those who have lost children. Watching anyone suffer a loss just pulls at my heart. It wasn’t until this year that I mentally felt ready to start paying forward all of the kindnesses that have been done for us as we have grieved one son and raised a special needs child. And it wasn’t until just a couple of months ago that the thought occurred to me that my way of ministering and helping grieving families might just be right under my nose!
I’ve learned throughout my journey of shooting photos that I should shoot what I love. When you shoot what you love, the photos show it. Do I love death? No. But do I have empathy for the families who are burying their loved one? By all means, yes. I think there is a certain beauty found in a group of loved ones coming together to bid their loved one goodbye. Moreover, funerals are events that gather loved ones and friends together when they otherwise might not ever gather. So with much thought, and after visiting with a representative from one of the main funeral homes in our town, I’ve decided to add bereavement photography to my services. I really feel like God gives us each gifts for a reason, and maybe this has been one of the reasons I’ve been given a visual eye for photography. And as I begin photographing these services, I pray the images I capture will be a tool for healing as people grieve.
If you or someone you know is interested in my services as a bereavement photographer, please contact me at 501.570.6274 or email@example.com