Faith Massey is a single mother of five children and a professional photographer who volunteers her time with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (https://www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org/), an organization that provides remembrance photography to families coping with infant death. Since its inception in 2005, NILMDTS has provided photographs to over 30,000 grieving families free of charge.

A month ago, just after a photo session with a family whose child had died thirty minutes after birth, Massey’s photography equipment was stolen from her car. Among the stolen items were her camera, which still held images of Baby Amari and his family. Said Massey to North Carolina-based WBTV, “It’s something that can’t be replaced … something that’s going to live in their hearts forever but the memory fades very quickly. Especially when you only have a few hours with your child.”

Speaking after the theft, mother April McLean said, “words cannot explain how I am feeling right now. After losing Amari, Faith helped make sure we captured all of Amari’s precious moments on her camera shortly after I gave birth until the moment he took his last breath. To find out that the camera had been stolen with the memory card full of the last moments of my baby broke my heart. I’ve cried until I can’t cry anymore.”

Pleas from the photographer and the McLean family led to a miraculous development this week. The memory card from Massey’s camera was anonymously returned, sent to the North Carolina television station that had aired a story about the theft.

Said Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep co-founder, Cheryl Haggard, “I was amazed! Even though the equipment was stolen, at least someone had the conscience, empathy and heart to return the memory card. These were the only images the family was ever going to have. They are priceless to the family.”

When Massey received word that the memory card had been returned she was overjoyed. “I asked them to go through the images with me while I was on the phone to verify this was actually the memory card. We went through and I asked him to look for a particular blanket. When we found the blanket, I knew we had the right card. I texted the mother immediately and she has texted me over and over again today to thank all who have helped and supported them.”

A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to help with replacement costs of the stolen equipment, much of which is specialized to allow the photographer to shoot in low light situations such as NICUs. For more information, visit http://www.gofundme.com/mpre90.

Cheryl Haggard reminds people with similar images of their own to back up and store these images regularly and in different places. “We never know how these technologies are going to hold up over time. Scan and store regularly.”

As a baby loss mom myself, I am well aware of the power of a photograph. This kind of documentary evidence helps to ground a parent coping simultaneously with the trauma of loss, and the remembrance of a beautiful baby who left much too soon. Memory plays tricks and is mercurial. The harder we try to remember, the more easily we forget. We don’t forget the love, but the associated images become opaque. It is services like those provided by Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographers that allow us the invaluable gift of precious and preserved memory.

This article originally appeared on BabyCenter.

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