Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
I want to talk a little bit about something that's important to me and that is giving back having been very tired and emotionally drawn through several process with you I am going to try really hard to keep it together so I will actually be pulling hair out of back of my head or something but I think it's important to note that out of life you get what you give period you always it always comes back you know the old adage adage when you give you get back tenfold my life is literally it parallels that so much because when I started working with charity's very young um I've never went into any charity we work with nine major charities and there's not a single one that I went into with the whole what's in it for me attitude all of them have very personal stories that I won't share today with you um reasons why I did in fact work with them but each of them I would go in with this attitude of I want to help and then every time I would do something it would seem like I would get something bi...
gger that was more valuable and so of course I would try to do more and it would come back to me and I think there's a level of guilt that comes with that too because you feel like I'm gaining more than I'm actually giving so that is something that you have to understand this is one of my very favorite quotes ah when I stand for god at the end of my life I would hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left who and I could say I used everything you gave me I love that because you could see I work really fast really hard I think I'm in a rush to make sure I don't miss anything I don't want to miss anything at all and so I tend to be extremely passion I think people like me mostly get locked up they find them in institutions a lot but I don't think they can catch me I'm pretty convinced so I am truly convinced that we each have our own individual talents I want to make sure everybody here and in the entire world understands I do not have natural photography talent absolutely not my son my thirteen year old son does he is his work is breathtaking since he's been eleven he's been shooting I struggled I have had to copy people and try to emulate what they were doing over and over and over. And then I watched some of these shooters that come up and just pick up cameras gets so angry that I you know, see these eighteen year olds that create these breathtaking images and man I couldn't do that so so it's not natural to me this is not natural talent this is years of mechanical processing and understanding and educating myself so it does not have to be a national talent you have a passion for it it's good enough that passion can drive you to educate yourself and get there so so talented me is it's it's it's fifty percent gift and fifty percent work it comes from somewhere but you have to earn it too it's not free it never comes free so in order to work and find a charity that you want to work with you have to find something that means something to you have to find something that is personal to you um saying you want to be charitable is one thing going through the work is another thing and it does take a little bit of time so you want to find something that's important so today I wanted to share one of the charities that I work with and this one of course is very very important to be very privileged to be able to share this message with you because now I lay me down to sleep is an organization that uh I co founded myself and a mother seven years ago now the situation wass that uh a family contacted our studio and I was in a session and I was actually interrupted which is pretty where and my receptionist said there was a gentleman phone who seemed very upset and he his son was in the hospital and they needed you to come take pictures they had seen your work in the hospital and they wanted you to come take pictures and of course um I told her I said I can't come tonight but I could be there six o'clock in the morning whatever it takes I had some plans with my children that I wasn't going to break and I followed her back to the front toe listen to the conversation so she picked up the phone and she started to explain that and all of sudden she said wait wait wait wait wait wait wait and she covered the phone and she said tomorrow's gonna be too late he's not gonna be here you have to go tonight? Of course, when I heard that that changed everything I called my family and told them that it could not come home and there were four of us that got together, including helen and aaron out there, wherever you are I've been chantelle and we got things together and started ted hospital no understand this is not something I've ever done before in this pretense I'd bend a hospital photograph premiums for the hospital things like that, but this was something where I knew the outcome we got to the hospital and I met I met mike haggard first and cheryl when I was brought into the room, cheryl was holding maddox. This is baby maddox, and mike was the one speaking to me. Cheryl was very upset. You can imagine she had found they'd found that at ten days old maddox had a condition that was incompatible with life and they would have to take him off life support. At that time. Cheryl was pretty upset and was not able to speak, but mike came to me and he said, you know, we've seen your work all over the hospital. My wife absolutely loves it. This is our fourth child, this is our second son and more than anything in the world, we want portrait of him because we have torches of our other children and we see this and we want what you have in this hospital, and I said, absolutely no problem, he said. But I have ah, have a a favor to ask you and I of course, said anything you want, of course, and, um, he looked at me and he said, well, more than anything in the world, my wife wants a portrait off her holding her son just skin on skin like the ones in the hospital, no tubes, no wires, nothing attached to him, and he said, so would you consider waiting until he passes away and would you capture that image now of course you can imagine when somebody says that to you it was like a wrecking ball went through my heart I was like no, I can't do that I mean I didn't say it out loud in my head I'm like I can't do that and of course my heart kicked in and I said absolutely I would have no problem with that so we went into a room they took us into a small closet area it was like a very small room which at the time I didn't realize that is where they take families to say goodbye to their children um we went into this room and we set it up and we put up a background little studio strobes and things and these images the first images maddox was actually hooked to so many things there was a nurse actually breathing for him she was squeezing a uh a little ball so that he could continue to breathe while this siri's was taken and during this session uh of course you can imagine is a photographer I don't it hit me so hard as I was photographing I thought you kept thing I kept thinking this is it these are the last pictures and I don't want to miss anything so I photographed the hands and the feet and the face and the nose and the lips and the ears of every single facet of that child I wanted to make sure they would have record and as I got closer to being done, I kept panicking thinking just one more just one more don't miss don't miss anything. This is it and we tried, you know, I tried so hard to capture everything, but there was a point where I knew that I had everything that I could possibly capture. And at that point I said, I'm done and I stepped up and we all stepped out of the room and we left and we went and sat down. I don't think a word was spoken for the forty five minutes that it took for maddox to pass away. Uh, when, when the nurse came out, the first thing I saw it with her is her face was so swollen she had been crying so hard and you can imagine I looked at her and I thought, I always thought that that was the greatest job in the world. So actually the maternity nurse to be actually be in the labor, labor and delivery department and was the first time seeing this total stranger in so much pain that I realized how hard her job must be sometimes so she came in and told us that he was he had passed and that we could come in, and when I came into the room this is the second time so different at this point mike was very upset and cheryl was completely apiece in fact, when I walked in the image she was holding him skin on skin she had a tube top skin on skin and he looked like a perfect sleeping angel he was just this beautiful little baby s o we did start the session over again now he had passed away we did the hands and the feet and but this time she could touch him and move him and kiss him and love him and it was probably one of the hosts real beautiful things that I had ever been through in my life um from that session you can imagine I left that we'd left it late in the middle of the night I went home and I'll never forget it because I went home and I have four children sorry hang on I went to each of their rooms and I picked each of them up give them a hug and, um I fell asleep in my daughter's bed the youngest daughter and I don't even know when I fell asleep. But I remember waking up that morning and being so overwhelmed I've never felt so it effie in my life nothing ever shut me down, but it was so heavy that I couldn't even go to work I've never canceled the day of work for anything and I called the staff and I said that I was not I'm not gonna be able to come in and I I went and I started looking at the images. Now the interesting thing is that night they were the most beautiful things I've ever created in my life, but the stark reality of what I had photographed that day when I went back in the morning and looked at them maddox when he was covered with the tubes and wires and then once he had been taken off and all of the life had gone out of him, you could see where the blood was pulling at the bottom his body and his body was a very a strong color or orange is green, and he just did not look as healthy as it did that evening, and so I was a little overwhelmed thinking I can't give this to these folks. I need to do something better. So I contacted a great friend of mine, david union, and explained the situation and I sent them to him and he created one of the most beautiful slide shows I've ever seen and he helped us do the artwork to take them to the level that we need to be now this family came in a soon as they got done in fact, an interesting thing is she called me she lost her son in the middle of the night she called me at nine o'clock the next one had given her my cell number and she called me and said are they ready yet I mean this was so she was so excited to have something that she just wanted teo to see if the reading I said not yet I explained to her what I was gonna do and she literally called me every single day probably twice a day saying are they done yet are they done yet she was so desperate to see them and finally we got them done she came to my studio and we wanted to treat this just like a regular sales session we wanted her to come in and have the slide show put to music we knew it was going to be very private we set it up so that they could click the button and start the show and we could leave the room on we also knew that I was not going to charge her anything there was no way I was going to be able to charge this family for this work and so I had turned to the sales associate knight said okay let them see the show as long as they want and then when they open the door go in them and what go in there and whatever they want go ahead and just um take the order they're not gonna pay for it so we started the slide show and um I waited outside the door and I heard it end and then I heard it start again and it was about the third or fourth time that it started to play that we I walked away and it took about an hour and a half they watched that show over and over and over and they finally opened the door and when she opened the door, she literally came out of the room with totally tear covered face and she physically grabbed me and she said she pulled back and she said, do you know what you've done for me? Of course it startled me I was actually very concerned I panicked a little bit and she said, you have given me my son, of course, um, you know, I understood where where she was, what she was feeling and how powerful, how important these images really were, so the sales associate went in and sat down with her and they started to order. Now this took hours. I finally came in a couple hours later and the associate aaron looked up at me and she gave me the face of, oh, my gosh, and of course I'm like what? What? You know, I didn't want to say anything we're trying to be professional and she literally taps the computer monitor and this bill was around six thousand a little over six thousand dollars. Um cheryl, in her grief, wanted to purchase all of these big prints and have all these images. I knew that this is not a fair time to be selling portrait or even showing porch senate and also, in my mind had made the decision that I was not going to charge. And so that was the beginning of this relationship, and I want to quickly fast forward because I want to get to the important part, not even four weeks later, I received a phone call on my cell phone, and it was a client of mine, a very good client of mine. And she said, my sister has had a baby and the baby is not going to survive, but my sister does not know it. And she said, I don't care what it costs. I want you to come down and I want you to photograph this baby. I don't care what I have to pay for it and of course, I literally looked up in thought. What is going on? I mean, I made it like twenty years here. Why wear we doing this? But we got in the car and we headed down there now that the difference between this little baby and maddox is mom and dad did not know he was not going to survive. They had not been told yet and he could not be moved. And the whole time I was photographing him, of course I was not going to charge anything, but the whole time I was photographing them. I kept thinking if they would only let me come back when he passes away, I could let him. Well, he I could let them hold him and touch him and kiss him and be near him. He could not be moved. He was completely covered. And so is really very hard for us, little daniel for us to photograph him because I felt like I was cheating that client. And it was that night that cheryl called me and she was waiting for her images. And we had created a relationship. And I explained to her, I said, you know, it's the weirdest thing, but believe it or not, I've met another family who has lost a seven. Would you consider calling them? And just because you've been through this, it might be a good thing. And, you know, we had a conversation and cheryl so I started telling her how guilty I felt that that I couldn't give them what I had given her, that they I d couldn't say when he passes away. And she started telling me how guilty she felt that so many other babies in the hospital had passed and she had these beautiful portrait and nobody had anything. These people were so blind side, and they literally walked away with nothing. And so that is the conversation we had. And she said it, sir, that said it. She said, what if we started an organization where professional photographers could provide portrait's for families who were going to lose babies? And that was those were the exact words that launched this entire organization? Now to tell you a little bit about it are photographers provide all the session? Um, the session there time and in the edited images completely for free. No money exchanges, hands thief. This is a gift from photographers to them. We do have tremendous support. If you go to now, I lay me down to sleep. Dot or ge we have massive form with we literally. This site has over four million hits a month. It is worldwide. We currently are in ten countries. I'm sorry forty countries with ten thousand members so but it's not enough we need so many more people to provide this service as far as I'm concerned people come to me all the time and they say there's just no way I could do this it's just too overwhelming I'm too emotional um come on you're talking to the most emotional person in the world and I tell them you know what? I have done more sessions then I will ever say the number anymore because frankly it's it's impossible for me to believe that I have watched that winnie babies pass away and there's never been a session that I've done that he didn't cry the entire way through I literally cried the entire time crying is different than snorting and sniffling and falling apart by the way it's tears flow but I keep it together for the session, but it's never been that way, so when people tell me that they're going to cry, I tell them good because it's important that you connect, I would be more worried if you didn't cry than if you did and I hear from parents all the time that I worked with when they say when they come to see the images or we deliver them they say, you know, the one thing I remember is you were crying and I felt like you were there that my baby mattered so far as I'm concerned, these people that do this, our heroes, they're literally sacrificing you remember that time we talked about? They're giving up a lot of it to do this and sad, lee, they're burning out. We have literally hundreds of hospitals who desperately want us. When we first started this, we couldn't get in a hospital. Now we can't possibly service them all. There are families every day going without this service that know about it, they want it so bad and we have to turn them away because we do not have the support to do it. There are some heroes out there that literally take every session. They'll take ten sessions a week on dh there burning out and we need to get help. And if I could get more photographers, we could stop that because in most cities, if you had ten people per hospital, you only have to do one session a month, if that but some hospitals we have one person doing twenty sessions a month and it's every day, every other day, so so we're really desperately looking for your help. We have the support, we have training, we have trainers all over the united states. Um and outside of the united states that air training I will be flying in doing some of the uk this year we want to make sure you guys are ready for this and you can get the support that you need um people always say that they can't do it and this is my honest answer you can't change what's happening to these people whether we choose to do this or not, they're going to lose their child, but what we can do is we can change the way that they heal for the rest of their lives. I know without a doubt these families look at these images over and over and over and it means the world to them now we are always looking for funding options for this event and we have a wonderful charity model search it I'm going to go through this really quickly because I have something special I want to share with you the charity model search is aa program that you conjoined it's actually ending now but very soon but next year you can join it there's lots of prizes and it gives us the ability to have a contest where we look for north america's cuties child and all of the proceeds actually go to the organization and the two thousand nine model search raised one hundred sixty four thousand dollars this money keeps this organization alive it is a fully staffed executive director on down to receptionist they have five seven employees same time it is an expensive you know, it is an expensive process to keep its staff but it's a critical process there's no way we could shut this down in its service thousands literally tens of thousands of babies that have been service with this program so if you have questions we would certainly love to help you own love to work with you back it up here we would love to work with you again, it's now I lay me down to sleep dot or gue um we're here for you we want you to be a part of this we will train you on we will make sure that it happens now what I wanted to do is instead of me telling you how important this is I thought we could hear from some of the parents and let you know how important they think this work is so we're gonna go ahead and show you a little video you may not want this now but you will probably want them at some point in your life you were always able to turn and look at those photos see what it's like to be together in a happier time babies home she's home I see every day this's your heritage you're gonna want these pictures someday through such tragedy there definitely was something positive to tell about it everything was perfectly normal until she went into labor and which when her water broke is when way knew something wasn't right my first two it was easy. I had my first son it was a total easy pregnancy. My daughter came eighteen and a half months later, so that was a really easy delivery, so when we went in we just assumed it would be really easy and we'd be home in a day and everything would be fine. Back in two thousand seven I found out I was pregnant it was actually an unexpected pregnancy, so overall the pregnancy seemed normal, but I was more concerned with this becoming a single mom and how my life was going to be, how it was going to adjust actually, the pregnancy was perfectly normal. There was a little bit of concern towards the end about maybe lean a little bit bigger than anybody was expecting, but he uh upon further check everything was fine, everything was going fine and everything heart be was fine lungs, kidneys she was grand perfectly. Taylor was our third child and she's she was with us for twenty five days, way pretty much spent every every day with her but she was alive. Finally, after two weeks we decided that the future was not going to be good for her, so we decided to pull life support and that took another two weeks, fourteen days, so that was really painful toe watch they had teo deliver me when he was only twenty five weeks along and he was born weighing one pound six ounces at birth on a progressed very quickly and when they came back and they checked it again about a half hour later, they couldn't find his heart rate separate, so they immediately did a uh uh emergency c section and he wasn't breathing right on his own then, and so it was some sort of compressed cord situation that occurred during the delivery itself. March twenty nine, two thousand eleven I went into the doctor's way told me that her heart had stopped and my world came down, I held him and he hung on and, you know, he just kept kind of was up and down thing and he held on and the doctors were talking to me about taking him off life support and I wasn't ready yet is that he's fighting? We're goingto see what happens, but by the next morning it was pretty clear that he wasn't going to get better and he was suffering and we were losing way heard about it actually through several different places almost simultaneously was all through the hospital because because we were there are nurses told us about now I lay me down to sleep, they gave us the brochure and then we heard about it through the chaplaincy program. There I was amazed that there was even this group of people out there doing something like this. I think my first reaction wass, why do we need that right now like this is it was really traumatic. It was actually the day we decided to put her on life support they had called her in the hospital had asked us if we wanted that, and we said yes, and they said this would be the best time, because after that, you're not gonna want pictures of what she's going toe look like. Nurse was somebody I trusted immensely, but my first reaction was actually like, I don't want to do that. That just sounds more. But that doesn't sound right and it's such a horrible moment in your life. That is not something you want to photograph originally. But the crazy thing was, is that the nurse was actually the nurse for cheryl had cheryl hagar beck a couple of years earlier. So that was when the whole organization started and he came to me. Literally, the nurse did in tears, saying, this's, your heritage, you're gonna want these pictures someday, so he talked me into it, and yeah, I was so, so glad if it's something that that I wanted to look at, really, you know, you just nowadays we're so used to seeing the instant gratification of looking at a photo, and so I looked at him, but it was one of those things that I look through them right away. I thought, man, these are amazing, and I don't want to look at it again through time because they do carry a lot of emotion around, you know why they were taking way looked at him right away because we had to have a service and we needed pictures will be wanted way wanted pictures for the service. We wanted people to see that, yes, we had a daughter and she was beautiful and she was perfect and we wanted to share her with the world at the hospital, we didn't, but we wanted people to know that she she was beautiful, so we looked at I'm pretty much the day we caughtem and it was hard. It was really hard because wei had just lost our way, we're beyond grateful to have it, now they mean everything. The photographer was amazing she came out and she actually took pictures of them before we took him off life support and after he had passed on and it was very emotional but she was wonderful. She actually put together a little video you know, she puts some of pictures to music together in time for his memorial service just a couple of days later and then it was probably you know, it could have been three four weeks before I got the actual pictures from her and I remember when I first opened them toe look at them it was just yeah, it was really, really hard at first help me a lot because my baby exists you know, she she was right there she is in the pictures and friends family that go over my house, you know, this my baby she lived she was here with me, I carried her and here she is the short life of her daughter taylor was something that forever changed my wife amber and eyes life, you know, completely completely changed us. It was the most difficult situation that think anybody could ever be faced with, but out of that, I think we've became stronger in our relationship taylor's pictures air throughout our house but I also happen by the rocker in my bedroom I have every picture that angela gave us and they're in a book and well but I look at them just different times when I'm feeling sad or when I missed her or just different times and I just love looking at them because I can remember her nose was like this on her oh, I remember her holding my hand like this and um it's just it's priceless it is priceless toe have that about teller. That gift that she gave to us is an amazing, amazing thing uh, just simply the gift of her time and her energy and her professional skill to give to somebody else is not something that any of us have taken lightly way love the photos we love what they've done for us way really appreciate that she took the time away from her family because ueno nothing else we know how valuable that is it's easy to just think this was something that was so terrible that couldn't possibly have happened even in your own mind sometimes you think like that it's so comforting to see a picture of him and say yeah, I am a mom and and he is my son and he was here well, thank you guys for letting me share that I know that's very emotional but you can imagine there are thousands and thousands of families out there who have been serviced by people just like you people who are willing to get up and go to a hospital at all hours of the day and night and take the time and to capture those images, and to give those families the literal only connection they have to their child, these air the only tangible items, and believe me, they treasure them like nothing. So with that being said, I don't want to leave you on a sad note. I want you to understand how really beautiful this really is. As I said, we can't change what's happening, but we can literally change the way that they heal for the rest of their lives. So I thank you for letting me share that. I promise tomorrow we'll stay way on an upbeat on I want you all to smile very big right now because you're all very blessed to be here, to have your families and the people that you love and I think, it's, time to go. Wow, sandy, I just want to let you know that so many people on the internet have either know people who have been involved in now I lay me down to sleep or want to volunteer, or that has just given them ideas about what they can dio for people that they know who are in the hospital right now, not even a part of that organization, so one amazing thing that we are teaching photographers around the world. But now that we're impacting families around the world, so thank you, thank you for giving me this opportunity to have a voice this strong. I mean, you can imagine, I'm just, literally, I just sent a message to. Now I lay me down to sleep, saying, get ready for it, we're taking over the world, so thank you, really. And truly, this is this is a big deal, you creative live has now just given probably thousands more families, the opportunity, and that is huge, so thank you. And now I have the chills, and I'm crying so let's, give a round.