It’s simultaneously the saddest and most heartwarming spot in the Logan City Cemetery.
About 75 graves of children who passed far too soon make up “Babyland,” an approximately 100-by-30-foot rectangle that with all its toys and stuffed animals stands out from the uniform gray of the rest of the cemetery.
A stuffed Cookie Monster, a yellow Tonka dump truck, a little decorated Christmas tree, a big plastic stegosaurus — hundreds of playful items scattered among the headstones provoke a smile, though those headstones bear dates showing lifetimes that lasted a few months or weeks or days. Many of the children were never born.
“It’s a place of peace, I think,” said Dianne Crockett.
Crockett, 55, is a 36-year emergency room nurse (she retired from Logan Regional Hospital last week) who has purchased plots for passed young ones for nine years; 25 in that time at about $500 a pop.
At Babyland on Thursday she told the stories of some of the children, including some she had cared for as a nurse. One child had been hit by a car, another drowned, another had a heart defect.
Over the years she saw firsthand parents’ heartache and on top of that the headache of making burial arrangements. Crockett said parents going through what could be the most painful period of their lives should not be burdened with the logistics and expense of burying their baby.
She also wants parents to know their baby’s location. She wants them to have a place to visit. In the past, the bodies of some young children whose parents couldn’t afford plots were cremated.
“It’s about helping people through a rough time and that feels very good,” Crockett said. “It gives more back to me than people will ever know.”
When life gets tough, Crockett said she goes to Babyland — then her problems don’t seem so bad.
She buys plots for everyone, no matter their wealth or if she knows them or not.
The freshest grave in Babyland belongs to Benton Bowles, who after nine months in utero died in his mother’s womb on Nov. 16.
“It just breaks your heart. People use that term a lot, but that’s what happens,” said Benton’s 24-year-old mother, Sarah Bowles. At 36 weeks, Benton’s heart went silent. Doctors determined the umbilical cord had wrapped around his neck.
Sarah is an emergency room nurse at Logan Regional Hospital and was mentored by Crockett.
“She’s an incredible woman,” Sarah said of Crockett. “She took care of everything. We were so grateful.
“It’s a huge comfort to know our baby is surrounded by other babies. We’re lucky we got to have a spot there.”
Sarah said it’s also comforting to know there are others out there, that other parents are dealing with the same pain.
“You know you’re not alone,” she said.