Why I Walk : Creating a Legacy at the Virgina Walk
“Would you like a photographer to come in and take photos of your son? The photographer doesn’t cost anything. I know it’s hard, but it’s better to get the photos in case you want them later,” the nurse at Christchurch Women’s Hospital told us as she handed us a NILMDTS pamphlet.
My son, Noah Carter Marksbury, was born sleeping at 1:07am on the 15th of April 2008 in the Garden Room at Christchurch Women’s Hospital in Christchurch, New Zealand. I was surrounded by my husband, my mother, and my mother-in-law who took turns holding our son that we would never take home.
Exhausted from the 15-hour labor, I made time to read over the NILMDTS information. I remember reading that the organization was based out of Colorado in the United States. This American, non-profit organization had made its way to Christchurch, New Zealand where, me, a fellow American studying my master’s degree, would need to use its services.
We wanted the photos. So, the nurse called and got us a local, Kiwi NILMDTS photographer. We did love the photos and never regretted it. Our gratitude for this service overflowed.
After receiving my master’s degree in New Zealand and moving back home to Austin, Texas, I had the unfortunate need of using NILMDTS for the second time – only 9 months after we used the organization the first time. My son, Jonah Carter Marksbury, was born alive at 1:17am on the 17th of January 2009 at St. David’s Hospital in Austin, Texas. I held Jonah for the entire five minutes he was with us. In disbelief, I, again, would not be taking home another son from the hospital. Later that morning, I knew I wanted NILMDTS to photograph our son, Jonah – just like I had done with his brother, Noah. I asked the St. David’s Hospital nurse if she could call NILMDTS for us. She did. We were able to get photos of Jonah, just like we did for Noah.
Ten years later, I still have the NILMDTS photos of Noah and Jonah hanging in my bedroom. I had used the photos at their memorials, and I look at the photos every year to remember our precious treasures that we did not get to take home from the hospital.
In 2010 and in 2011, after two extremely difficult pregnancies, I did get to take home my rainbow babies – two daughters, now age 7 and 9. Even with the sweetness that came from my rainbow babies, I still mourned the loss of Noah and Jonah. Signing up through the NILMDTS website, I was eventually notified of a Remembrance Walk happening on the 29th of September 2012 in Littleton, Colorado. Since I had family and friends in Denver, I had the chance to attend my first NILMDTS Remembrance Walk. The walk allowed my best friend and my uncle, who lived in the area, the chance to walk with me in my grief and show their support and love in a way they couldn’t before.
My friend helped me make these sashes to wear to the walk. In fact, I will be wearing the same sash at the first NILMDTS Remembrance Walk in the DC area on October 5, 2019. Because I didn’t know what to expect at this Remembrance Walk, and I was afraid of the feelings of intense grief that I knew could come over me, having my best friend and my uncle at this event meant the world to me. While I did cry during the Remembrance Walk, I also smiled and felt comforted by the surrounding parents and their family members who were also there to remember their infants. I will never forget that opportunity to remember my sons and be surrounded by others who have also experienced the deepest loss that life can ever give. During the presentations, I watched the speakers who seemed like they were telling my similar grief story. I didn’t feel alone. I watched volunteers perform a powerful and meaningful skit that still plays in my mind, today, as if I had watched it yesterday. On this September day in Colorado, we were lucky, and the sun was shining as we walked around the pristine park lake, reading the infant loss remembrance signs that were sincerely written from the bottom of many hearts. Hearing the full names of my sons read out loud at the Remembrance Walk, for all to hear, validated their brief presence in my life and in this world. The Remembrance Walk helped me in my long journey of grief.
I grieve for my sons, Noah and Jonah, still. Even now, I can remember Noah and Jonah’s losses and feel the depth of that stinging pain as if I am reliving the events. While the 2012 NILMDTS Remembrance Walk helped me, tremendously, I am unable to make it to Colorado for the walk each year. A few years ago, I knew that NILMDTS was starting to branch out to a few other locations. I’ve been living in the DC area since December 2010, and I knew DC had to have a NILMDTS Remembrance Walk – for me and for all those near me who have also lost infant sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, nieces, and nephews. These NILMDTS Remembrance Walks help celebrate the love for our babies, and in turn, help us in our journeys of grief. And, as most know, if you have an idea and want it bad enough, you usually need to lead it to fruition.
So, NILMDTS accepted my offer to make sure a Remembrance walk happens for the DC area. After looking for the perfect location over a year, we finally found a place that seemed to fit – Occoquan Regional Park. I am sincerely and forever grateful to NILMDTS for the photographers who, unselfishly, spent their time photographing my sons – at no cost. I cherish these photos. I hope that the DC Remembrance Walk will allow nearby grieving families to join in celebrating a loved infant that is no longer with us, and help spread comfort, love, belonging, and support that is desperately needed by many for years to come.