Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Earthly Angels

"But when we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day. Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods. Some of them gave birth to us, and in my case, one of them consented to marry me. Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind." Jeffery R. Holland

Over the last 8 months we have encountered many "earthly angels". They have been sent in times of need, they have provided love and support...light and direction, they have brought peace and comfort, they sent words of encouragement, and they have spent time on their knees on our behalf. We know that in God's love and wisdom, he could see that we would need these angels as we would embark on this journey.

Two of these angels are Michelle and Amber. Strangers in our lives until June 30th, 2008 ...angels ever since.

On Monday, June 30th, we learned the heartbreaking news that Branson's heart was no longer beating. Our world stopped with that news. We were in shock. Sometimes I think back to that day and wonder how our lungs even managed to keep pumping air, how our hearts had the strength to keep beating, or how our legs had the courage to keep walking.

I remember coming home that night, our minds in a fog....what?....why?....how? I remember these questions circling over and over again though my mind. As we sat on the couch in our living room we couldn't do anything but hold each other with tear stained faces and broken hearts.

Luckily, my parents had been with us that day at the hospital when the news came. They made the difficult phone calls to family and friends, they coordinated things with the doctor and hospital, and kept our world afloat.

Later that evening I remember my dad came into the room to tell us about a phone call he had just received. Someone from Utah had called to tell us about an organization of photographers who offer their services free of charge to families who's babies are born still. My initial reaction was..."what? Wouldn't that be weird? Am I going to want people I don't even know in my hospital room taking pictures of my with my baby who's dead?...I couldn't quite wrap my mind around it. I wasn't quite sure how to respond.

Then we brought Rob's computer into the room and went to the website that told more about these incredible, and we were able to see some of the beautiful pictures that they had taken of other families...and something spoke to my heart...yes, this was something we needed to do.

We found the phone number of one of the photographers in our area, and my dad made the call and set up a time with them for the next afternoon. On such short notice, they must have dropped whatever else they had going that day...families, their businesses, their lives...to help someone in need.


At 4:00 the next day, their was a light knock at the door...and two people walked into our lives...Michelle and Amber. They entered the room with quiet respect, an understanding smile, and countenances full of love and light. We introduced them to Branson, and they made us feel like we had the most beautiful baby they'd ever seen.

They went about setting up their lighting, and they had even brought their backdrop along with them. They just started snapping photos. They didn't pose us, or ask us to do anything that we hadn't been doing all day...we just held our little one...and they captured it!

They captured his every feature...his toes, his hands, his perfect little ears, his long feet, his cute little nose. They captured the love and loss that his grandparents felt. They captured pictures of him in all three outfits we had him dressed in that day. They captured a proud daddy, and a new mommy. They captured the sweet, tendure moments that we shared with him...but best of all, they captured our family...just the three of us.

They took their time...they didn't rush. It almost seemed as if we were the only people in the world that mattered to them at that moment. They finished up and said their goodbyes, and left as quietly as they'd come.

Even at that time, I didn't realize what a gift we'd just been given. I didn't fully appreciate or understand how much those pictures would mean to us, or how precious they would become. We had taken our own photos at the hospital that we developed quickly and cherished very much, but we waited anxiously for the email that had some of the professional images attached.

About a week and a half later (very fast for how many shots they had taken, and considering they still had full time businesses to run) we received that email. Rob and I sat together on the couch and opened the first attachment....and we were speechless...it was the most beautiful picture I had ever seen in my life. Branson looked so perfect, just like the angel he was.

Since then there hasn't been day go by that I don't look at the pictures these two women took of our little one. They make up his website, his memorial video, his scrapbook...they fill many frames, and adorn our walls.

There also hasn't been a day go by that I haven't thought about these two earthly angels, and offered thanks to God that they shared this beautiful gift with us. They touched our lives in a way that no one else could. They've helped us heal through their work, they've helped us remember just what Branson looked liked, they've met our angel....they've changed our lives.

I can't think of a more selfless act than capturing the moments shared with families and their babies who've had to leave too soon. Michelle and Amber...thank you! These two words seem so inadequate to explain the gratitude we feel towards you. We love you.

Members of this organization won't take any money for their services, however, they do take donations at their website. Please visit it to find out more about them and this incredible service. Please tell everyone you know about this...for you never know when someone will need this information...
Follow this link to their website

There was also an aritcle written about the organization lately in Newsweek...
Follow this link to read the article.


Brittanie said...

I didn't hear about NILMDTS until several months after we lost Cora. I have always wished that I had known about them. That my OB's office had had a flier or something.

Branson's pictures are so beautiful. I'm so glad that you got to have those.

April said...

Oh that was so sweet. I am so glad they were apart of your lives and captured seriously the most beautiful photos ever. When Harrison was born NILMDTS wasn't going to make it until hours later, and because he was so little and I was so sick we decided to take the pictures ourselves. I think they turned out great but sometimes wished I had them come. Cherrish those, they are beautiful. People amaze me daily at how kind they truly are. Thanks for sharing. I hope you are doing well.

Loretta Valenta said...

I so love the pictures you have of Branson -- they are sooo beautiful! I think it is so wonderful that you have these pictures to always treasure -- what a gift! What wonderful angels you've had! We love you guys!!

Kandie and Steve said...

I loved your post,(as always). We love all three of you dearly, and are grateful, for the angels that have helped you. Thank goodness for such sweet people, and a loving Heavenly Father to send them your way. Take care!!

Amy said...

I loved your post...because it expresses some of my same feelings. Julie Williams is our earthly angel. I also didn't realize how precious and healing those photos would be. I'm so glad you have them. Branson is beautiful and you are a wonderful family!! for eternity!

Jed & Kimberly Anderson said...

You are so lucky to have those pictures of your sweet baby and family, and I know that you don't take that for granted. We love you and baby Branson so much and are grateful for your example of strength and courage. Grateful for your strong spirit and for your testimonies. You and Branson are angels to so many, just as others have been angels to you!

Kara said...

I visited the site, and it is truly amazing the work that this organization preforms. I am so glad that you have such beautiful photographs to remember you sweet Branson and that you have been able to not only share his story but these amazing images as well. They are so peaceful and beautiful.

Gordon said...

Dear Natalie,
This entry really stired me deep inside. The memories are oh so sweet and yet in many ways still very painful. We all experienced the ultimate in opposites in those two days.
I loved this one because you helped me to remember what a special, sweet spirit there was in that hospital room that night and it didn't diminish when Michelle and Amber came to preserve those wonderful memories. It was just as you have recorded in your blog. I sure do love you and Rob and I am so grateful that I was there to be a small part of that memory. I'm so glad that I got to hold Branson and study his perfect little features. I sincerely look forward to the day when I can meet him and know him and love him. I have a dream that some day there will be an awards ceremony held in heaven for all those who lost their children on earth. Branson and many others will have the opportunity to introduce you and Rob to all the hosts of heaven. There will be the all of those mothers with whom you share your blog and also the likes of the Prophet Joseph and Emma...the mothers who laid their babies on the plains and walked away never to see them or their graves again in this life. It will be a very elite group of people. He will call you and Rob up to stand with him as he introduces you to all the hosts of heaven as his "Angel" Parents. Mom and I will be in the audience and oh how sweet the joy that we will all feel. It will penetrate our hearts as deeply as has the pain of his loss here on earth. This is my dream.
In the mean time my the Lord bless you with faith and courage to go forward.
Love Dad

Kim Call said...

I love the music you include on your blog....along with all the thoughts you share, it makes thinking back on Branson's birthday a very special experience for me. I'm sure you have noticed I don't have very many pictures of him on display in our home...somehow, he holds such a sacred place in my heart I can't bring myself to introduce him to everyone who comes through our doors. I don't think everyone can appreciate who he is and how much he means to me. And to have to try to explain that to those who can't is too much for me to do. So, I have his pictures in our family album where I can go whenever I want to remember and love my little grandbaby. And I have my journal entries to keep his memory sacred to just me. My favorite thoughts are pretty selfish: I can't wait till you have the opportunity to raise him during the millenium and I can watch how much he's just like his daddy, my little boy who grew up too fast and was out of my life in the blink of an eye. You will get to see some of the endearing, ornery traits that tested me and made me love my little boy more than life itself. Those are my selfish thoughts I have for you and me. I love you, dear Natalie. Have a good one!

Michelle said...

Oh, Natalie, your dad's comment made me cry. You are so blessed to have such loving parents.
I loved this post. I am SO SO GLAD that you have those pictures!!! I was fortunate that my mom took lots with her nice camera and her talent for composition. When I later heard about NILMDTS I was so amazed and excited at this wonderful service. I had the privilege of helping to arrange for a photographer for my friend's baby born on Monday with anencephaly.
It is such a precious thing to have these pictures of our babies. I am grateful to live at a time when stillbirth is more understood and services like this are available.
You and Rob and Branson look absolutely celestial.

Dawn said...

I am Trent's little sister, and I just happened to see your blog on their website. I am so grateful you shared your experience. I thought I would just read a little bit, but I couldn't stop reading. I think you both are strong, courageous individuals and you are an example to all. Thank you for sharing your testimony and the thoughts and feelings of your heart. I hope and pray for the very best for you and your family.