A yellow teddy bear sat next to one headstone, a rattle next to another.
Some of the graves at the cemetery in Westland are adorned with small fences and flowers, others with plaques that tell about the baby and many have messages engraved on the headstones that read: “always in our hearts,” “in loving memory” or “rest in peace.”
The site — in Islamic Memorial Gardens off Ann Arbor Trail — is a place where fetuses, infants and young children are buried, said Najah Bazzy, founder of the organization Plots for Tots, a burial program helping indigent families.
Many were stillborn, others died young and funeral costs would have been well above Medicaid benefits received by families and some were miscarried and buried in accordance with religious beliefs in the Muslim community.
“People need closure,” said Bazzy. “ ... They need to have power over how that baby will be laid to rest whatever method it is.”
Bazzy, a nurse from Canton, has been helping people for more than 15 years who can’t afford to pay to bury their children and has worked with other cemeteries in metro Detroit as well.
“If (the child is) a non-Muslim baby, they have the right to be buried, too, because a lot of non-Muslims do not want their children cremated, either,” Bazzy said.
Parents often find out about the program from hospital employees, hospice workers, funeral homes, mosques and churches, she said.
“We’re growing fast,” Bazzy said.
There were three babies buried during the past few weeks of August, said Jill Myslinski, an owner of Islamic Memorial Gardens.
Among them: an infant who who died days shy of turning 11 months old.
“My heart ached for the parents,” Myslinski said.
The Plots for Tots burial site, located next to the Maple Grove Cemetery, was dedicated in 2009, and there have been about 30 burials there, Bazzy said. There is room for more than 200 babies in the area purchased.
“One of the challenges is that we want to keep this for family who cannot afford, but we’re getting a lot of families who just want their baby in a baby cemetery,” she said. “We have done that.”
When a family can afford the burial, they have donated the cost back so another family can be helped.
The program, part of Zaman International Hope for Humanity in Dearborn, was established in 2002 after Bazzy said she became aware of 222 fetuses in a local hospital and many had been there for years.
“This will not happen as long as I can do something about it,” she said.