Our Family Story
A letter from Soul Mother, Aimee Lybbert
My son is gone. We tried to hold on to Christian so tightly and we gave everything our family had to keep him with us. But despite all our efforts, his spirit slipped through our fingers and he is now gone.
We heard what no family ever wants to hear-- "There's nothing more we can do."
At that point the only thing we could do is carry out the plan B that we had always had. Most people plan birthday celebrations, but I planned a death day celebration. Soulumination was a central part of my plan. I knew I could call them at any time and someone would come. That day came at the end of July 2016 in the rooftop garden of Children's Hospital and our favorite photographer was there with our family during that sacred moment.
Having lived in the hospital for 11 months, I started to recognize the outward signs on the unit that a child was not going to make it. The nurses would get the memory cart and park it in the hallway. They would carry the couch from the quiet room in the CICU and bring it into the room where family would hold the child. Family often accompanied by hospital chaplains would be ushered to the child's room with tears streaming down their cheeks. All of these signs brought sorrow. But the one that brought hope to me was the sign of a Soulumination Photographer carting their camera and gear to the child's room.
My son was born with a rare complex congenital heart defect but I found other families at Children's like ours. There were 13 of us that had babies around the same time at the beginning of 2013 like my son. Christian was the 6th one in our group to pass away. He was only three and a half. One common thing that I heard the grieving mothers say was that they were eternally grateful for the pictures they got, especially the ones taken at the time of their child's passing. The ones that did not take pictures said that was one of their biggest regrets.
One day, months after his passing, one of my children went over to Christian's cabinet to the drawer where the photos of the sunny day in July are kept. Weeping silently at first, they started to go through the pictures. I just sat next to my child and we went through the photos. Soon it turned into those full body sobs that only grief seems to unearth and I held this grieving older sibling and sobbed alongside. We chose not to display the photos, but the children knew where they were kept. This child had protected their heart for months and not allowed the gravity of that moment sink in until it was safe at home to process it and those photos were the key.
I didn't fully understand why you would want pictures of when your child passes away until I became one of those grieving mothers. Our children are gone. There are no more birthdays and no more milestones. Every time my family gathers I feel this gaping hole where he should be. He is gone.
Every day, after that day on the rooftop, distances me further away from the last time I held him. My arms ache for him. Instead of frantically trying to hold him here on earth, now I feel this frantic anxiety about trying to hold on to his memory and the time we were gifted with Christian. His beloved stuffed dog that he clung to through every surgery and hospitalization doesn't smell like him anymore. It seems like everything is losing the once crisp edges from the time when Christian was still here.
But what does not fade is the treasure trove I have, the pictures that were taken by Soulumination. I have the printed photos, I have photo books, I've got the cutest keepsakes with his pictures all lovingly assembled by amazing volunteers at Soulumination. But most importantly to me, I have the discs with all the pictures from each session.
He is gone and my arms are empty, but my hands and heart are full thanks to this amazing organization.
Death is a universal part of life. It comes to all races, social status, culture, and even every age. I know that my child was not the last to pass away in that same garden. There will never be an end to the phone calls that come to Soulumination but I know Soulumination will be there no matter who needs them as long as we continue to support and lift them up. It doesn't matter how much money a person has or earns, Soulumination will gift a photography session to each family free of charge. Their loved ones will still be gone, but we can help preserve a sliver of time for their families to hold on to.
Soulumination provided 233 photography sessions to families in need in 2016.
Families are gifted all rights to their images with the option to release them to Soulumination for use in bringing awareness to our work.
Thank you to the incredible photographers donating their time & talent to our mission.
The following individuals provided photography sessions to families between January 2016 and July 2017.
Randell Carmer Walton
Adair Freeman Rutledge
Lynette Huffman Johnson
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