Friendship, Family, and Photography

I know you have read a million times that you should book your family sessions with your local photographer today to capture your special moments. We all tend to dismiss it saying “I will book when I lose 10 pounds.” Or we use baby weight, needing to get our hair cut and dyed, or whatever else we can come up with as the excuse to not get in front of the camera.

The truth is, most people aren’t comfortable jumping in front of the camera. There are the rare few who can roll out of bed and look stunning. The rest of us need a little help and a lot of coaxing to get there. But getting there matters. It matters a lot.

I have a wonderful friend named Lisa. The first day I met her, it seemed like I had known her forever. She makes everyone around her feel like they are the most special people on Earth. She makes it easy to be her friend. She always has a smile, kind word or a hug for her friends.

Three years ago Lisa was diagnosed with cancer. She did her chemo and was in and out of the hospital. When you would see her, she would say “I’m fine. I’m tired. But I’m fine.” She didn’t complain. She didn’t start a pity party and I never heard once say “Why me?”. Her worry was her husband and her kids, her friends and her family. We were talking one day and she said “You know, I do what I have to do and then I am done. It’s out of my hands. I know that I am not the one in charge of it all.”

I decided to give her a gift of some family sessions. We were only able to get one session in. She got sick. She went in and out of the hospital again. The day we did the session it was raining. I though we were going to have to cancel. It was overcast and wet all day. We decided to go ahead and meet up anyway. A few moments before we started shooting, the clouds parted and let us shoot. She wasn’t feeling great, but she managed to smile and to walk all over the little park.

She brought a photo of her son Davey who was stillborn. She wanted her family photos to include him. Her children talked about him and they even fought about who would place the photo next to them. He would have been 8 years old now and they made sure that he wasn’t forgotten. Their daughter told me that “he’s my big brother and he lives in Heaven. He watches over me and loves me like a all big brothers loves their little sisters.” I had to hold back a lot of tears that day!

After our session, we took the kids over to the playground area in the park and it started raining again. She and I stood under the slide and talked while her kids played in the rain and giggled. We agreed that the universe meant for this photoshoot to happen and we were all so grateful that it did. Her children behaved through it and we got some amazing photos.

I had hoped that we would get a lot more photo sessions in, but it clearly was not the way the universe meant for it to be. Lisa lost her battle with cancer at 7:30 on Saturday morning. I am in tears as I write this blog post for her and for her family. She was such a unique person, she was truly one of a kind. No matter how she was feeling, no matter how bad her day was, she genuinely would ask how you were doing and how your day was. She invested herself in every friend she made. She would offer a smile or kind words to anyone. She made our world a better place by just being herself.

My goal over the next few days is to just create CDs with these images on them for her friends and family. They can be reminded of their sweet and wonderful friend who shared hugs and laughter, and who was their shoulder to cry on when they needed it. I want to put these memories in their hands so that they can print them and share them with her children. So they can all be reminded of her smile, her warmth, her quiet dignity and grace and how much she loved being a wife and a mother. They can share their stories with Collin and Lindsey and they will grow up knowing how much their mother meant to others and how much her friends and her family meant to her.

I urge anyone who is reading this to start documenting your story. Take photos. Commit to getting professional images taken at least once a year if you can afford it, the rest of the time use your point and shoot. (You can get some great shots even with a point and shoot!). If you don’t have a point and shoot, but have a camera phone, use that! (Just be sure you are loading these photos to a computer and printing them out!!!) .

And if you are the mom (or the dad) always taking the photos, you need to learn to use the timer and get a small tripod. Get in the photos. You complete that story. There is no blueprint or outline that tells us where our journey will take us, we have to be prepared for whatever life throws at us. Documenting your life and your children’s lives is a gift that is timeless and more valuable than you can even imagine. I have no doubt that Lisa’s children will treasure these images for the rest of their lives. I am honored to have been able to give them such a gift.

I knew that the images I took that day would be special for her and her family. I knew they would treasure them. I had no idea how special these images would be to me. I look at them now and I am reminded that my job is important. I don’t save lives. I don’t stop the bad guys. I don’t rescue people from burning buildings. I give them the gift of memories. I give them the gift of special moments with the people they love. I give them a treasure that will cause laughter and tears all at the same time. My job is important because the people in front of my camera are important. They matter. Their story matters.

Thank you Lisa for being my friend. For your kind and generous spirit and for just being you. I am so proud to say that I knew you and that I counted you among my friends. Our world was a better place because you were here. You made a difference in countless lives. 
Thank you for letting me be a little piece in your amazing story.

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