A Special Bond Formed through Volunteering as a NILMDTS Photographer

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I wouldn’t even want to count the number of families I have served in my nine years as a volunteer for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, and every session is different. There’s no one way to approach these other than to just walk in, show love and compassion, and capture what you need to capture knowing that this is all the family will have.

For the most part, I do really well hiding behind the camera to get my job done. Sometimes I cry with the family if I keep my camera down too long. It’s when I get home and begin editing that I start mentally processing everything. It’s heart-wrenching but also so incredibly beautiful. It’s such an honor to witness families at their most vulnerable moments and capture these special times. It’s at times overwhelming for sure, but I can’t imagine not giving these families a chance to still study and learn about their babies even after they are gone.

Of all the families I’ve served, there are a few who have remained close to my heart. The Offutt family is one of those. I really cannot put into words why there was an instant connection that awful day, but I felt part of the family immediately.

Another dear friend I found through NILMDTS when I photographed her son explained it this way: “God ordains meetings between people at different times. When this happens, both parties have to be present at the meeting. If they are not present, then it’s just strangers passing. When both parties are present, God does something special in their hearts. This is especially the case in the instance of loss, when both parties are present in a deep, dark valley and both parties interact in a way that is meaningful. God does the work to create a close bond that, no matter their relationship before or after, will last a lifetime.”

With the Offutt family, I feel this bond was strong because this book, A Corner of Heaven, was meant to be published. About three and a half years after I met the Offutts, I was invited with some other photographers to speak to a photography group at Crossroads Church about serving NILMDTS. I immediately felt called to ask Teresa Offutt to possibly speak about her experience in losing her baby son, Kulen. I knew it would be one of the toughest things to ask, but I also felt strongly it was supposed to be her.

Teresa said, “This is awesome. Thank you for thinking of me! I know it will be hard, but God will use this in an amazing way.” Laura Dewire—the author of A Corner of Heaven and the teacher of Teresa’s daughter Kailen—had joined Teresa as a support. I later learned that on the drive home from that talk, the idea of this book was born. Kailen connected to Kulen through drawing, and the story must be told!

Amazing how God works! There’s no way to know how many families the Offutts have helped, but they must know they have. I simply love the Offutt family!

~ Lisa Hezlep, NILMDTS Volunteer Photographer

Lisa Hezlep is a Cincinnati-based photographer and a Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep volunteer photographer who created remembrance portraits for the Offutt family. She has remained close with the family and takes regular portraits of them, including the photos in A Corner of Heaven.


If you are interested in purchasing a copy of the book "A Corner of Heaven', you can click on the button below. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.