My year wasn’t supposed to start like this. It’s not exactly how I planned it. Nor did my next door neighbor or some of my friends. This last Saturday I went to my second funeral this month. Death is not the way to start a new year. It’s not really the way to start anything, but this is where we find ourselves. Both of these deaths were very unexpected and sudden. My next door neighbor, Pete, died while out on a run training for a marathon he was going to do next month with his stepson. My friend, Nolan, passed away from pneumonia just shy of his 30th birthday. I find myself in this big space of questions and sadness. I desperately want to do something, but I don’t even know what that looks like. How do you help someone newly widowed? How do you help your friends cope with this huge chasm of loss?
The only answer I have is to give them what I can. Memories. Stories that tell of where they’ve been and where they’re at. That’s all. It feels so small to me, but I know it’s so important. This is what you have left and I’m reminded yet again, in the most jarring way, how important what I do is. It’s not just a photo shoot. This is a story of your life and the people you love and live with. To say that this is humbling is an understatement.
My neighbor, Joni, asked me to do a photo shoot with her and her sweet puppies. Pete had been gone for six weeks. She told me that she and Pete had been meaning to come over and ask me to do a shoot this fall but they just never got around to it. Now she told me that Pete always said, “There’s no time like the present,” so she thought, well, I might as well do it now. To mark where she’s at. I think she must be one of the bravest people I know. She told me her puppies are saving her. I know that’s true.
I photographed my friend, Katelyn’s, wedding a couple years ago. Nolan was one of her attendants. He really did everything, the flowers, décor, some hair and helping the girls get dressed. He kind of knew how to do everything. He did this for our friend, Kasey’s, wedding too which I also photographed. “Martha Stewart, eat your heart out,” was something commonly said by him. At his beautiful funeral on Saturday, Katelyn told me that I had given her the best gift. She had photos with him on her favorite day. I know that Kasey and Katelyn will cherish this gift. It’s what I have to offer. It’s my comfort too.
To my clients, past, present and future, thank you. Thank you for allowing me into your lives and your most vulnerable moments. Thank you for allowing me to show you how beautiful your life is. Thank you for allowing me to connect you to your loved ones and give that back to you in stories and memories and simple moments. Thank you.
Life as art.