“Sometimes love is for a moment.

Sometimes love is for a lifetime.

Sometimes a moment is a lifetime.”

— Pamela Adams


Keeping Memories Alive: How the Angel Fund helps grieving families heal from the loss of a baby.

"My babies are with me all the time. I don't want to forget them. The Angel Fund provides a positive "place" for me to do this and reach out to other families at the same time," says Shelly Cogguillo, the founder of this vital volunteer initiative.

When the anticipated rapture of a child's birth inverts into the debilitating anguish of mourning a baby stillborn or a baby who dies in infancy, the desolation is all too often shrouded in silence. Loving couples on otherwise sure footing sometimes cannot find the words. Family and friends fear offending with words that miss or worse. The mother's child, whom she named and came to know through the months of their being one and yet not one, is someone she can never forget. There are memories. There was a relationship, if only briefly. The mother gave birth and the child was born.

Shelly Cogguillo and her husband Joe are intimately acquainted with the entire wash cycle of emotions that comes with such an unspeakable loss.

On June 16, 1997, Joe and Shelly Cogguillo's second baby, Oliver, was born.

Shelly continues. "Oliver died seven weeks later of a heart defect that was not detected during pregnancy. On what would have been Oliver's first birthday, Joe and I learned that the baby I was carrying had died. Lilla was born still on June 17, 1998. Joe chose to see Lilla. I couldn't. I met my daughter for the first when I opened a 'memory box' my nurse at Yale-New Haven Hospital gave us before we left the hospital. The box contained Lilla's blanket, little pink hat, handprints and footprints, pictures of her, and our hospital bracelets. She was so tiny and so easy to love. I carried her little hat around with me for days."

The "memory box" was something the knowing nurses prepared on their own and out of their own pockets. The memory boxes also contained a copy of the book Empty Cradle, Broken Heart that gives advice and comfort to grieving parents. Following a miscarriage in 1999, and personally knowing how helpful these keepsakes were, Shelly and Joe established the Angel Fund in 2000 to support the nurse's good work at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

In 2003, the Cogguillo's launched Angel Fund, Inc., as a component fund of The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, to raise funds to offer a Memory Box program to hospitals throughout the state. Advanced by an able Board of Directors, a growing constituency of families affected by the loss of an infant, and scores of compassionate sponsors, the Angel Fund advocates for research in the area of perinatal bereavement and provides uniquely designed and thoughtfully prepared Memory Boxes personalized for each mourning mother and family in participating hospitals.

Upon hearing about the Angel Fund many mothers share their stories with Shelly.

"I asked to see her," one mother of a stillborn baby wrote in an email. "But they said it was not a good idea and took her away. To this day, 16 years later, on July 23, (she wasn't due until December), I stop and feel the pain. I can still remember what it felt like to have her leave my body. How I wish I had her footprints....I just wanted to see her and hold her once. I wanted to see what she looked like. I often wonder. I have two redheaded boys; I had another one after I lost my little girl....She was alive in me. I heard her heartbeat. I felt her move....The one comforting thing that one elderly Catholic lady said to me when she heard I lost her was that God needed another angel. That helped me....The child I had after my loss is now 15, the cutest, sweetest boy you can imagine. God blessed me with him to make up for my loss. I believe that. I can't imagine my life without him."

The Angel Fund. Helping families heal. Keeping memories alive.

By Jennifer Y. Schaffer, special to The Sound newspaper.

A note from Cathy and Shelley

We are so sorry your baby died. Our hearts go out to you, your family and to your baby. We have traveled the same road. Cathy's son Daniel was born still at 42 weeks in 1998. Shelley's son Oliver died at 7 weeks old in 1997, her daughter Lilla was born still in 1998 and she had an early miscarriage in 1999. If you found this web site because you received an Angel Fund Box it is our hope you found some comfort from within. Lots of love, lessons that we learned and tons of compassion went into creating and finding just the right items to give you. If you stumbled upon this site and are looking for words of wisdom or comfort we hope you will find

them in Doraine Riley's words:

The Garden In My Heart

There is a place within me, as peaceful as can be
It is a tiny garden no one knows it's there but me

I planted it in silence, alone and full of pain
The world went on as usual, mine will never be the same

There are no flowers growing, no weeds to pull away
It's a place once filled with hopes and dreams of how things might be someday

A hand to my heart is how I tend my garden,
I touch there now and then

My tiny seeds are safe with me, forever till my end.

Shelly’s Story

Book: Tiny Hands Change the World


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