Even as a crowd of mourning strangers Wednesday laid to rest two newborn girls killed or abandoned by their mothers, 2½-year-old Trinity Haack of Roselle stood among them as a happy, smiling testament to the potential of Illinois' Safe Haven Law.
While the deceased girls' mothers in Chicago and Dolton did not take advantage of the 16-year-old Illinois Abandoned Newborn Protection Act, little Trinity was safely brought to a fire station in DeKalb in November 2014 and adopted at three days old by Christie Haack.
The doting mom has since become active with the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation to help promote awareness of the law that allows healthy newborns to be handed over without question at such designated locations as hospitals and fire and police stations.
"This is my reason," Haack said of her energetic daughter. "These babies don't have to die. She's adored by everyone who meets her."
Unfortunately, the Safe Haven Law did not protect Mariam Jane Uddin and Ariyah Mikayla Hoover who shared a funeral Mass at St. Mary Catholic Church in Buffalo Grove Wednesday before being buried at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines.
Mariam Jane's 19-year-old mother served time in jail after throwing her newborn and still unnamed daughter from an eighth-floor window in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood in November 2015. She had hid the pregnancy and feared discovery of the birth.
Dolton police are still investigating the circumstances of Ariya Mikayla's death after she was found in a garbage bag in the shed of a home last June.
"It just kills me that things like this happen," Haack said. "There was an adoptive family waiting for this child."
Both the funeral and burial were organized by the nonprofit Rest in His Arms. Susan Walker of Wheeling founded the agency 12 years ago, after she felt compelled to arrange services for an abandoned baby found in a landfill in Grayslake she'd read about in the newspaper.
"It kind of touched my heart that I could do something about it," Walker said.
She and members of her board of directors agreed the mission is to show care and bring dignity to children who were otherwise shown none of those aspects of human life.
One director, Deacon Jim Pauwels of St. Edna Parish in Arlington Heights, addressed that in his homily during the funeral Mass.
"These two little babies didn't deserve their fate," Pauwels said. "We know in our hearts they were born to be loved and nurtured."
A crowd of approximately 75 people at the Mass helped show the concern the two girls had not found in life.
"It's really hard to bury babies," Walker told them. "That's why I'm so grateful for you being here today. It makes the burden of grief easier when it's shared."
The process for the agency's taking custody of the deceased babies is always the same, but must await approval of the homicide investigators. That's why there may be a vastly different amount of time after death that the babies have their funerals.
Rest in His Arms has now provided services for 35 abandoned babies. But Walker is encouraged that Illinois' Safe Haven Law is responsible for saving the lives of 120 children, including little Trinity.
The rescued girl took part in the final moment of Wednesday's services, after the two graves had been covered, by releasing a single pink balloon into the bright blue sky.
Rest in His Arms' work is made possible through volunteers, monetary contributions, the donation of services by Glueckert Funeral Home in Arlington Heights, and burial plots provided by the Archdiocese of Chicago and Catholic Cemeteries.
Though such support continues to be needed, Walker and her board of directors spend most of their time soliciting awareness and education about the Safe Haven Law.
"This keeps happening and I just want it to stop," Walker said after Wednesday's services. "Rest in His Arms would love to go out of business."