October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day and Ashley Opliger is busy setting up for Wave of Light — a candle light vigil hosted Sunday by her non-profit, Bridget’s Cradles, to celebrate the lives of babies born into heaven.
The event, complete with 50,000 blue, pink and white lights to represent babies in heaven, “is a beautiful night to be together as a community and know we’re united in our heartbreak, but we’re also united in this hope we have to see them again,” says Opliger, who took a break from setting up the vigil to speak with the Daily Citizen.
Families attend Bridget’s Cradle’s Wave of Light in 2022. Photo courtesy of Ashley Opliger.
Ashley and her husband, Matt, started Bridget’s Cradles less than a year after their daughter, Bridget, was born into heaven in October 2014. Though only 24 weeks and five days old, the Opligers could see God’s design in Bridget.
“She was fearfully and wonderfully made,” Ashley says, “Her fingernails and eyelashes — everything was formed and beautiful. She was just very tiny.”
Bridget was so small that she was swallowed by her hospital blanket, making her hard to see and hold. But, unbeknownst to Ashley, God had already provided the perfect solution. A week earlier, Ashley’s mom had been knitting a tiny blanket for her granddaughter when God inspired her to join the edges together to create a Bridget-sized cradle.
Bridget Opliger in her cradle. Photo courtesy of Ashley Opliger.
“[The little cradle] changed everything for us. It really comforted us in our grief. We felt like it was made specifically for her, and that God had given my mom this idea to cradle little Bridget in it. We felt such peace holding her,” recalls Ashley.
Though the cradle brought her family temporary peace, Ashley finds lasting peace in the hope of heaven through faith Jesus Christ. “He’s the only One that can offer us true hope that we will get to see Bridget again because He’s the One who defeated death,” she says.
God has used Bridget and her family to bring similar peace and hope to bereaved families across the country.
The hospital where Bridget was born asked Teresa, Ashley’s mom, for more cradles like Bridget’s. “We’re putting [premature babies born into heaven] in washcloths and medical basins, and that’s not a functional or dignifying way to hold a baby that’s born so small,” Ashley remembers the hospital saying.
Now, Bridget’s Cradles sends out 30,000 cradles and keepsakes each year to 1,400 hospitals in all 50 states, where she says they “continue to reach new hospitals and more families every single week.”
Bridget’s Cradles ships tens of thousands of knit cradles every year to hospitals across the country. Photo courtesy of Ashley Opliger.
God has also expanded the ways Bridget’s Cradles ministers to grieving mothers. Ashley runs a monthly support group at the non-profit’s headquarters in Wichita, Kansas, and an online support group called Hope Online. Her podcast, Cradled in Hope, releases an episode every month with encouraging messages for grieving mothers.
Each outreach points mothers to hope in Jesus, says Ashley, explaining that the grieving process changes when Christ is invited in.
“As believers in Christ, we’re grieving, but we’re grieving with hope. And even though grieving with hope still hurts and is very painful and lonely and sorrowful, we have the hope of heaven and an eternal perspective. We can fix our eyes on heaven and know this earth is not our home and we will ultimately be reunited with our babies. And we have a glorious eternity to look forward to not only with our babies, but most importantly with God Himself.”
Though Bridget’s Cradles primarily works with bereaved families, Ashley believes her ministry demonstrates the value of human life to a dismissive culture — especially through events like Wave of Light.
“For some reason in our culture, wanted-ness equates to worthiness,” she notes. “Of course, as believers, we believe God gives each human life inherent value because we are made in His image. When people mourn for their babies and long to see them again, that shows culture that there is value in human life — that [our babies] lives are worth being grieved over.”
Families from across the country will pour into Kansas to celebrate Wave of Light together this Sunday, but Bridget’s Cradle’s “Shine Their Light” fundraiser to honor babies in heaven is open all month. The ministry’s goal is to raise $50,000 dollars so it can continue to provide cradles to hospitals and families for free.
The Opliger family gathers around a spray of lights dedicated to Bridget at last year’s Wave of Light. Photo courtesy of Ashley Opliger.
In a culture so prone to despair and disregard for life, Bridget’s Cradles is a shining example of the Spirit of Christ alive and working in His disciples.
And whatever He does next — like Wave of Light — is going to be beautiful.
Photo Courtesy of Ashley Opliger.