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Many parents would like to keep their children young forever -- unless they may be robbed of the chance to see them grow up. That is where Lynette Johnson comes in, working as the tender bridge in that gap. She helps a family capture the love that lives beyond life.
Years ago, Johnson's sister-in-law was pregnant and went in for a check-up. Johnson got a call, expecting the news to be a celebration, but that got turned on its head. The doctor discovered the baby had died in utero. Johnson's sister-in-law would have to give birth to a daughter who would never draw a breath.
But the baby was a child just the same, and her sister-in-law didn't want to let her daughter go forever. She wanted a picture.
That was two decades ago. This was not the sort of tragedy anyone had a vocabulary for -- let alone a photo album. A nurse gave them the bad advice that pictures were not a good idea. Luckily, Johnson still snapped a few.
Even now, she keenly feels what she missed.
"I could still kick myself because I never held the baby." she said. "She was treasured. She was loved. I never hugged my niece."
But she can hold a few pictures.
There are more families who have faced similar tragedy. Too many. Lynette can't protect them from loss but she can prevent their regret. She can lend them her eye and her heart. She can take pictures.
She formed an organization called Soulumination which connects professional photographers, who donate their time and expertise, with families who want to capture their love and happiness while they still have time with their young children.
Soulumination photographers make a lot of emergency trips to Children's Hospital. They get a lot of calls after diagnoses. They hear from parents facing loss almost impossible to bear. But the pictures help them through it.
Baby Adam's medical charts said things like "heart syndrome," "spina bifida," and "hydrocephalus." But the words you'll hear from his parents are "strong of character," "courageous," and "stalwart." They lost him after four months, but they'll love him forever. And you can see that in the pictures they still have: of his little fists curling around their fingers, his head cradled by a loving hand, and kisses covering his fat little feet.
"When you looked into his eyes you felt like you were looking into the eyes of a very wise old man, almost unworthy of his gaze, but wanting so much to feel the strength and love and maturity that he possessed," his parents wrote. "He had a mission in this life and he fulfilled it."
And so does Lynette.
She wishes she had no more pictures to take. But she does. More families need to know their love will outlast their loss. She is their flash in the darkness.