Ange Movius was on the same youth ministry team as my son Kevin when he fell and broke his neck in 1997. We had not really connected, though, until recently, when I had some portraits made for my next book. When I checked out her website, I stumbled upon a page entitled "Zayden's Promise," which offered bereavement portraits and posted the testimony of Angie Smith, wife of Selah founder and singer Todd Smith. I watched the tender video celebrating the life of their child Audrey, touched by their reverence for God and their love for the child that went to be with Him. In an age when millions of babies are routinely disposed of, it was like taking in a holy breath of fresh air, bathed in life.
Loving the children.
Worshiping the Giver.
Trusting in forever.
I was so moved by Ange's anointed photos that I just had to know the story behind the story. She has graciously consented to share her heart for these little ones and their grieving families, and why she does what she does.
What inspired you to start Zayden’s Promise?
A good friend of mine, Tanya, was pregnant with Zayden the same time I was pregnant with my second child. We connected over our pregnancy, and when Zayden was born and then passed away, it was so close to me because it could’ve just as easily been my baby.
I felt so helpless and like I wanted to do something to help, and I also felt survivor's guilt, that my baby had survived and hers hadn’t. I avoided talking to her for a few months- it was so hard to face her with my baby in my arms and hers in the grave. Eventually, I wrote her a card and poured my heart out to her.
I avoided saying things like, “Sorry for your loss.” I’ve always thought that if I went through something like that, I’d want people to acknowledge my baby, that he was a person, that he lived, that he was more than just a “loss.” I sent her a mix CD along with the card with songs that brought me hope and said that music has always helped me in times of darkness and when I needed healing.
She didn’t say anything at the time, but months later she connected with me and told me the card and the CD meant the world to her. She referred me to the story of Angie Smith and how she walked through her pregnancy knowing at the end her baby would die. (Read Angie and Todd's story at http://angiesmithonline.com/2008/01/the-beginning-of-the-story/ )
I stayed up all night reading Angie’s story and weeping. When I got to the part about Audrey’s birth, and saw beautiful portraits done by a professional photographer, I knew that was what I was supposed to do. That’s how I could be God’s healing hand in people’s lives right in the middle of the chaos of grief, bringing a glimpse of His hope.
Tanya has been so gracious as to hold my hand along the way. Through the things that scared me, the things that made me want to weep and run away, she’s stood behind me and reminded me what God has called me to do, and that He always provides strength in the darkest of times.
"I always cradle them to my chest
and treat them like they were my
own baby - not a body, but a person."
What has been the most poignant moment you’ve experienced in your work with families who have lost or are losing a loved one?
It’s always hard, but there are a few times that my heart was just ripped out and I grieved so deeply for these families. I know that God has allowed me to feel just a touch of the pain so that I can be in prayer for them. I’ve spent nights weeping my guts out and praying for these families. God has been so good, though, as to let me always hold it together when I’m working with the families at the hospital. It isn’t easy to cradle a body and to not at times feel afraid or sickened.
It’s always the hardest when the babies are full term. They are perfect, beautiful, and so very heartbreaking. Once, I was getting ready to walk in to photograph a couple with their baby and I heard the wife say to her husband, “God is with us, even in this. I don’t know why we have to have this happen, nothing like this has ever happened to us, but God will carry us through this.” That moment ministered to me so much, seeing the way God’s hope makes such a difference in the grief process.
Sometimes, when the babies have just been born, and they are soft and still warm and their skin is loose and wrinkly, and they feel so very alive, and like if you just blew breath into them they would come back, those are the hardest. It’s harder to separate my emotions from the moment or to be in denial that this is a little person. I always cradle them to my chest and treat them like they were my own baby - not a body, but a person.
What have you learned along the way?
Since losing Zayden, Tanya and her husband Jeremiah loved and lost a baby girl, Halliee, and I had to walk through a time of not understanding and being very angry at God, feeling like He dropped the ball. Halliee in my mind was supposed to be their miracle, the promise after the pain, and I couldn’t understand why God had “failed” them.
I imagine that is just a small taste of what my families feel. He was gracious enough to walk me through that time, helping my heart to be at peace with it, and being ok with that I may not understand everything that happens here this side of heaven. Haillee would’ve been the same age as my youngest, and Zayden would’ve been the same age as my second child, and I often find myself looking at them and thinking, “I wonder what they would’ve been like? I wonder what my life would’ve been like if I had lost my babies?”
Did you have any preconceived notions about death that have changed? About life?
Death is quick moving and harsh, once someone is gone there is no holding them back from death, as much as you might never want to let go. Photographing these babies and families is a constant reminder of how precious and uncertain life is. I’m reminded to really enjoy the moments we have and how life without God’s hope is a very dark place to be.
Something Tanya has always said to me is that anytime you can invite Jesus into someone’s grief, that is what makes all the difference in the world.
How has Zayden’s Promise increased your faith in God?
I now understand how quick this life is, and how God cares so much about us spending eternity with Him. He is willing to let us walk through darkness and pain if it allows us to be drawn to Him.
Ange Movius is the creative mind behind Ange Movius Photography, established in 2005 and located in the Lewis-Clark Valley of Northern Idaho. Her husband Trav is a vital team member, and they are the parents of three awesome children. Her non-profit program, Zayden's Promise, offers free infant bereavement photos and portraits for terminally ill children.
Ange Movius Photography