PEACE IN PICTURES: Nonprofit offers healing through remembrance - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

PEACE IN PICTURES: Nonprofit offers healing through remembrance photography


Fall Creek (WQOW) - It's said that a photo is worth a thousand words. Some argue it's worth so much more.

In fact, some parents say a photo is what pulled them through the most tragic time in their lives -- the loss of a child.

On a late October evening, the sound of drying corn crops can be heard rustling in the wind. The sun shines down on the Fall Creek farmland and all is calm.

Inside the Winsand home, however, a flurry of activity, as you would expect from a family with three little ones under the age of six.

Tonight's bedtime story features a sibling that Rylee, Trey and Remy would never meet. The tale of a baby who'd become an angel, before ever taking his first breath.

In January of 2012, Breanna and Stacy were preparing for their third child, a boy.

"We had everything set and it was kinda like, you know that third one, so here we go again,” said Breanna.

Then on the day Breanna hit 35 weeks, the O.B. nurse realized she hadn't felt her unborn child kick for a few hours.

"Your heart's beating fast, you're anxious, but you still don't think anything's wrong. It's like, 'okay, we're going to the clinic and everything's going to be fine,'" said Breanna.

But everything wasn't fine. The light of their baby's life snuffed out before it could truly shine.

"I just lost it. I cried, tears. Just like...what do you do? Just disbelief and shock," said Breanna.

Before dawn on the morning of January 21, Sawyer Tyce Winsand was born.

And into that hospital room, heavy with unbelievable grief, stepped a stranger…someone who's been called, both literally and figuratively, to give an incredible gift.

"Going up in the elevator there's always that little, 'what am I walking into?'" said Jan Favret, a fellow nurse at Mayo Clinic Health System, and a photographer on the side, who works with an organization called "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep."

"You found out that this is needed and you feel a sense of dread. 'Oh no, not again,' said Favret. “And I don't mean not again, that I'm being asked to give, but not again, I can't believe this is happening to another mom and dad."

Favret and thousands of others across the nation involved with “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” join a family in the most tragic moments to capture the precious minutes they can spend with their baby.

"Parents are often stunned by the beauty. There's love present in those photos. They're beautiful," said Favret.

"It's the only thing we really have left of him,” said Breanna. “To have these pictures where I have such detail of his hands and his feet is really special."

"We have never had a family regret taking photos of their baby,” said Gina Harris, executive director of “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.” “But I cannot tell you how many parents I've encountered who either found out about us too late or they regret turning down the opportunity for these photographs."

Even more amazing, the photographers, retouch artists, community specialists and others all volunteer their time and talent for the cause. There is absolutely no charge to the family for the session or for the photos they receive.

"They participate in this unique gift and they're giving of their talent that only they can give, they realize that, 'Wow, I am impacting this family for generations. I'm impacting the healing process,'" said Harris.

"You described it as a calling. I think that every photographer who does this, would describe it the same way,” said Favret.

"The fact that she'll come in the middle of the night to do something as a volunteer. It's mind-blowing really that somebody would be willing to do that,” said Stacy.

The gift is so much more than a 4x6.

"We'll sit down with the kids and look at the pictures and it's just so nice, and they talk about Sawyer," said Stacy.

"It is the only way they'll get to know that they had a little brother," said Breanna.

"To be able to pull down the book that they had made or the prints that they had made, and be able to remember what it was like to hold that baby in their arms, cause it's such a great loss," said Favret.

Mere hours together that will live on forever, thanks to an organization's fight to remember the littlest we've lost.

"We provide healing to these families through these photographs and we provide honor to those babies and hope for the future," said Harris.

"It's such an intimate and private moment and clearly we'll never forget her and what's she's given to us," said Breanna.

"Things happen for a reason and who knows what that is, but we'll never forget the memories of Sawyer," said Stacy.

To learn more about “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep,” click here to visit the organization's website and click here to visit its Facebook page.

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