By: Michelle L. Cramer (Founder & President)
I get asked all the time, “How do you do it?”
How do I take these pictures for these beautiful families that are losing their babies? How do I hold it together? How does it not get to me and bring me down?
I’m an extremely empathetic person. It shows itself in the absurd – attachment to characters in a television show I’ve watched for years that suffer loss or even perish (Sweets dying on Bones has caused me to bawl). It shows itself in the very real and tangible heart ache – when Baby Jaxon died, it was as if I lost a close family member, because he was the child of a friend. I had to hide during his funeral. I had to leave the room to compose myself.
Sometimes I feel ridiculous, getting so attached to these families and these little ones, most of which I have never met until that very moment I snap their pictures. The ones lost in a moment – born into Heaven – I touch their little toes, hand them to their mommies for an intimate picture of goodbye – and my heart is heavy beyond words. But I don’t even know them. How can I feel such strong pulls toward their loss? Why can’t I be outside it?
Often, the camera becomes a filter. It gives me the chance to work somewhat absent in the moment, only allowing emotion to brush against me, while I do what I must to give the family something to hold on to. Other times, there are just those families that tear at me from the first second. They, unknowingly, become a part of me for the rest of me.
What blows my mind is how deeply I feel these things, yet I never can fully understand. I’ve never suffered such a shattering loss. I’ve never had a miscarriage. I’ve never lost a baby I carried for nearly 10 months. I’ve never watched my beautiful child suffer through chemo treatments. I’ve never had to feed by child through a tube. Selfishly, I pray I never have to.
And yet, I feel a sliver of their pain. A taste of their reality in my throat. See it in their eyes. Hear it in their broken words. And my heart weeps. I weep.
Lately, I’ve been crying a lot for them.
I don’t like the question, “How do you do it?” I don’t like it being about me. Not in the slightest. I do it because I must. What else would I do with the gift God has blessed me with? It seems ludicrous to even ask that question!!
I do it because this is such as small way for me to help these families cope. Not heal – I never expect them to heal – but cope with the crushing loss. Cope with the long nights in the hospital because a cold is not a cold for a child with leukemia or Trisomy. But there was a moment – a moment I had the incredible honor of capturing – when it was just them. It was just love. And sometimes even smiles.
No, it’s not about me at all. It’s about them.
How do I do it? Only by the grace of God. He takes over. He takes control. I’ve learned now that he gave me this overly emotional, sometimes over-reactive, extremely empathetic heart, so He could use me to love them. Whatever small my contribution, this is what I can do. THIS is my purpose.
The HOW… it doesn’t matter. Not in the slightest.
All that matters is the WHY. And this… this right here is the WHY.