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Baby buried by family she never had

Baby Jazlene’s casket (not pictured) and funeral was paid for by kind-hearted strangers. With about 75 mourners at the service. Picture: AP

BABY Jazlene Branham never left hospital.

Born 17 weeks premature on April 3 in Chicago Lying-In Hospital at the University of Chicago Medical Centre, she died of sepsis and strep throat just before being seven weeks old on May 20.

The baby’s body was held at the University of Chicago before being taken to the Cook County medical examiner’s office on June 29, the Chicago Sun Times reported.

Fruitless efforts were made to contact Jazlene’s mother Brianne and her relatives by phone and registered letter in August. There is no evidence of any response.

Due to the baby’s age, Jazlene could not be donated to medical science. The medical examiner

contacted a non-profit group called Rest in His Arms that has arranged Christian services for 33 babies abandoned or whose bodies were not claimed.

Rest in His Arms organised the funeral. Catholic Cemeteries donated a plot at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines. Funeral director John Glueckert provided the casket, labour and hearse. Bevel Granite provided a headstone.

The baby girl was dressed in a white organza dress, with ribbons and roses, made by a charity Allison’s Angel Gowns, that make funeral clothes for children.

Rest in His Arms put a death notice, titled Baby Jazlene, in the Chicago Tribune.

”Please come be the family she needs,” it read.

About 75 solemn people, including members of the Catholic fraternal service Knights of Columbus responded. They were at a Mass earlier this month at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Almost everyone who took Communion reached out to touch the white, doll-sized closed casket.

Jazlene’s 31-year-old mother was not at the funeral. When contacted by a reporter, she broke down.

“This is, like, a complete shock,” she said, wiping away tears.

“If I’d have known this was happening, I would have been there.”

Brianne, a single mother with five other children, aged six to 14, said after Jazlene died she drinking alcohol heavily. She does not have a phone but admitted receiving the letter from the morgue. It mentioned the option of a $100 cremation, with a possible waiver of the fee, or donating the body to science.

“I couldn’t afford the $100 cremation,” she told the Chicago Sun Times. “I called my mom (sic) in Ohio, and she couldn’t afford it.”

Suzanne Matusiewicz took her children out of school to attend Jazlene’s funeral.

“I feel like it’s important to be here,” her 15-year-old son Joseph told the Chicago Sun Times.

“I try to come for every single one because I feel like it’s my calling to help bury them.”

When told about the funeral, Jazlene’s mother asked to see the funeral notice.

‘Can I keep this?” she asked.