"Since she was in the hospital her whole life, we never were able to get a photo without all her tubes. Can someone remove the tubes from this photo?"
That was the heartbreaking request posted to Reddit on Sunday. The Redditor, an Ohio man named Nathan Steffel, had recently lost his newborn daughter Sophia after only six weeks. Sophia had been born with a hepatic hemangioma in her liver and was on the waiting list for a new liver before she passed. Now all the family wanted was a good picture to remember her by.
And Reddit mobilized: Within hours of Steffel's request, dozens of commenters uploaded not only Photoshopped pictures of Sophia, but their own sketches and digital paintings of the baby. Offers poured in to send physical copies and 3-D models to Steffel, who was taken aback by the overwhelming response.
The photo went from this:
And all of these:
Image Credit: Reddit/Atlantic
"I just wanted to reach out to get at least one quality picture. I was amazed how many people responded. We have so many nice pictures now," Steffel told BuzzFeed. "We are going to hang up a few of our favourite photos and drawings. Also some of the artists were nice enough to mail us the pictures they made."
And not only did the Reddit thread provide an opportunity for Steffel and his wife to get a good picture of Sophia, it allowed families who suffered similar tragedies to reach out, share their condolences and offer an understanding ear.
As Atlantic writer Elizabeth Stoker Brueing recently wrote, "The Internet lasts forever — which is usually a creepy warning, used to warn teenagers of oversharing on social media, but in this case, it facilitates mourning at its best ... one can wake up at any time of the night and see the threads of online love and memory that accompany a modern death."
For one brief moment, one family's tragedy allowed virtual strangers to come together and create a beautiful tribute to an infant's young life. This is the best side of the Internet and a powerful example of how communities like Reddit can do good.