A memorial service was held at Maranatha Church on Northeast 12th Avenue Friday, to celebrate the short life of a baby found dead at the North Portland recycling center May 29. Baby Precious weighed 5 lbs and was hours or days old when she died. Her parents are unknown.
A group of women from the African American community, including Joyce Harris, Marci Jackson and Antoinette Edwards named the baby Precious, and organized the memorial and burial.
Harris spoke during the ceremony saying she at first felt anger that a baby had been abandoned to die.
"My initial reaction was shock, disbelief, anger, and then sadness," Harris said. "I probably said and thought many of the same things you did: Who would do this? And why?"
But over the next days, the educator and equity advocate started thinking about what situation could have led a new mother to abandon her child. As she worked with Portland police officer Marci Jackson and others to find a way to honor the baby's short life, she found many people were angry and upset.
"I realized I've got to help people refocus their anger," Harris said. "First of all we don't know what circumstances led to this baby being in this condition. We don't know but there may be a mother out there who is hurting terribly. We just don't know. So we should not judge… We need to come together as a community out of love and care… So one lesson that I want you to take from here today is: Let's not judge. Let's not judge."
Harris said those who care about Baby Precious could honor her life and death by committing to care for other children.
"We know she deserved to be loved and embraced. As do so many of our children. We are sad and maybe feeling a little sorry for ourselves because somehow we may feel that we failed this child –that we could not provide a safe haven for her, to care for her and let her know that she was loved…
"The most enduring tribute we can give to Precious is to commit to show the same love to the countless other children in our city state and nation that need out attention, our love, our advocacy, and out support. We need to make sure that they are not hungry, that they are educated well, that they are safe, and that they can envision a future that is strong and that they are loved. Precious, you remind us of the value of all of our children. You remind us of the value of love."
Harris told how Jackson and Edwards had made sure Baby Precious was dressed in special clothes and a hat, and had a teddy bear. She said Jackson had held and rocked the baby, showing her the care she never had in life. Harris hadn't wanted to see the baby, but in the end she too held Baby Precious.
Minister Danny Osborne played soft music on the piano throughout the ceremony. Pastor Kimberly Black, Pastor Mary Overstreet-Smith, Pastor George Merriweather and Dr. T. Allen Bethel gave words of uplift and comfort. MaryEtta Callier-Wells sang songs of praise.
Baby Precious was interred at Riverview Cemetery in Southwest Portland.
Police are still looking for information about who abandoned the baby and why. The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide and said the baby was born alive but died soon after birth. Anyone with information is asked to contact Det. Kristina Coffey at 503-823-0696.
Oregon Safe Haven Law says a parent who can't care for an infant can leave a baby, 30 days or younger, with a staff member at any:
· Doctor's Office
· Birthing Clinic
· Police Station
· Sheriff Office
· Fire Department
No questions will be asked. You must put the baby into the arms of a staff member. So long as the baby hasn't been abused, you can leave your baby in safety with no fear of prosecution.