His life: June 10, 2008 – June 11, 2008
Living Legacy: The Birth of a Ministry
Could 13 hours change your world? It changed mine. Nicholas lived 13 hours and, from that tiny life span, he would inspire the ministry He Knows Your Name. On October 6, 2009, I watched and online news report about a baby found in a dumpster by a couple searching for scrap metal in downtown Indianapolis. In the video, the area was encircled by yellow crime scene tape as onlookers watched emergency vehicles arrive. Wearing masks, gloves, and sad faces, the crime scene professionals removed the body from the dumpster. This was now a criminal investigation.
A child of God had been discarded, tossed aside and hidden. I found it ironic that the news media and public was outraged; yet, aborted children of God are thrown away every day all over this country. Bystanders interviewed spoke with hatred about the mother, unwaveringly casting her as the villain.
I reflected on my mother’s funeral in June of 2009: her burial clothes, her name, and her memorial service all dignified both her life and her passing. He Knows Your Name was like a song in my head, and I knew immediately that this child had to have the same dignity – and a name, too. Of course, I didn’t know the name. But I trusted that God already knew it and, in time, that I would know it too.
My first step was to call the Marion County Coroner’s office. I was shaking as I blundered through my questions. I asked the receptionist what would happen to this child and her answer stunned me. She said, “The child would be disposed of.” I was silenced with sickness. What did that even mean? I telephoned repeatedly until I reached Chief Deputy Coroner Ballew – or Alfie, as I would come to know her. I asked her to allow me to bury this child when the investigation was over, and she gave me her word she would work with me. Over the next weeks and months, multiple DNA samples were extracted from the baby to determine identity to no avail. The samplings were all inconclusive. Then in March of 2010, the case was elevated to a grand jury investigation. Little did I know, they weren’t even halfway through a process that would take thirteen months to conclude. But still I called the chief deputy every Friday until it did.
At last, Alfie told me they had identified the baby’s mother. Yet, I didn’t change my offer to bury this child; rather, I asked Alfie to tell the distraught mother, Nichole, that I wanted to help her. When I called to see if she would accept a meeting, she agreed to meet, along with Alfie, at the Marion County Coroner’s office. The Nichole who entered was fitful, angry, cursing, and suspicious. How did a mother end up in this state of distress? The answer came as just two thoughts raced in my mind: Baby Nicholas was born June 10, 2008. His body was found October 6, 2009.
What happened in those 16 months?
Nichole’s pregnancy was proceeding normally when she went to the doctor for a routine ultrasound. When the test revealed something concerning, Nichole was admitted to the hospital only to discover that her child was in danger and would not live after delivery. Nichole went into labor and delivered her child. He was alive at birth, which surprised the doctors; sadly, he only lived thirteen hours, passing away without his mother ever having the chance to hold him. The hospital recommended a mortuary to Nichole’s family, and she signed the release papers to have him transported to Boatwright Funeral Home. Nichole decided to have her son cremated and, though she tried to contact the funeral home several times, they never returned her calls. She slipped into a deep depression with many months passing while she was left without answers.
Sixteen months later, when the news reported a child found in a dumpster, Nichole never imagined it was her son. Why would she? She believed her child was laid to rest over a year before. So when one day a homicide detective showed up at her door asking if Nichole could identify her baby, she was taken aback. She did have a few pictures her sister had taken in the hospital, and she gave them to the investigators. In them rested a vital picture: soft, black curls had covered Nicholas’ head. It was a feature that also distinguished Baby Doe – the same feature that now confirmed him as Nichole’s baby. The pieces of this strange puzzle suddenly fell into place. Nichole learned that Boatwright Funeral Home had engaged in multiple, illegal disposals of remains…one of whom had been her son.
He Knows Your Name Involvement:
As I sat with Nichole at the office and heard her story, I prayed to God for wisdom about how to help her. Past experience had taught me to consider less what I need and more what Nichole needed. So I asked her, if she could have anything, what it would be. Her answer? A burial.
That first conversation brought another unexpected revelation. In our short exchange, Nichole told me that her son’s name was Nicholas. After months of wondering, I relished the sound of it: Nicholas. My heart opened. I did my best to explain to Nichole the odd series of events by which I’d come to so love her son. And as the words escaped my lips, I suddenly knew, in my deep places, that I now had a new purpose. This was no longer just about the precious bones waiting for burial. I knew, as I stood before her, that my new purpose was to honor this distraught mother by offering her a funeral that honored her son. I didn’t want her to have to endure the costs and burden of organizing planning and making decisions. This was a gift I wanted to give to Nichole.
But, if she was to accept, I quickly realized, she’d have to sign over her son’s body to another funeral home. How on earth could I ask that of a woman who’d been unspeakably violated by those in whose care her baby had first been entrusted? Realizing that Nichole might be re-traumatized by the necessary legality, I wanted to ease her burden. Looking Nichole in the eye, touching her arm, I gently explained, “I loved your child and I love you. I have wanted to bury this baby, and it’s still something I’d like to do for you. It’s a gift I’d like to give you. Do you think you can trust me?”
Her answer was the one I’d prayed for: “Yes.”
Nichole preferred I handle all the arrangements for the funeral. In the months I’d been waiting for Baby Nicholas’ release, I’d become more convinced than ever that every child deserved to be known, loved and honored. Specifically, I believed that every child deserved a name. In the Lord’s promise to a suffering people through Isaiah, I heard the promise that was for Nicholas as well: “I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.” (Isaiah 56:5, NIV)
Nicholas finally had his name back.
Watch the story told by ____ Channel 13, Indinnapolis