For the past year I have been thinking a lot about memorials. Yes, you heard me right — memorials. A year ago I shot a session for a family that was getting ready to move to a different state. The house meant a great deal to them — their first years of marriage, the house they brought their children home to, where they wrestled with one another and with God over various life challenges. That session — it was the first time I saw the importance of what I do for a job. I mean, it isn’t like I am a brain surgeon or a kindergarten teacher or a garbage collector. The world would keep spinning just fine without me here doing my thang. I enjoy it. The people being photographed enjoy it. But it isn’t really important.
That day, however, — as I took pictures of the window sills and front stoops that framed this family’s life for nearly a decade, I got it.
You see, in The Bible, in Joshua 3-4 — similar to Moses and the parting of the Red Sea — God miraculously took the Israelites through the Jordan River on dry land. Once they passed through, the Israelites were commanded to collect twelve big stones from the Jordan and place them in a certain spot. “When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”
This family was setting up a memorial. Collecting stones from their own Jordan River to commemorate this chapter of their life coming to a close. And just like the kids of the Israelites, this family’s children and grandchildren will be able to flip through the book we complied together and ask, “Why is this here?” The parents will be able to recount God’s faithfulness as their family was just beginning to grow. And I, non-brain surgeon me, was able to play a part in that holy stone-stacking.
I finally got it.
On the outside, it may just look like a simple coffee table book or a pile of rocks on a river bank. But those simple objects serve a greater purpose — to keep the memory from fading. To bring back focus to what is most important. To establish a memorial in honor of the complicated, messy, joyous pieces that fit together to form our lives.
No, it isn’t brain surgery, but it is important.
And now, my own stack of stones. To those families that joined my *photographic family* in 2014, thank you for trusting me with your stories. This is my memorial to you…
2013 favorites –> here
“God loves you so strong and so deep like
Storytelling Sessions take place in your home and last about 2 hours.
This summer I got to shoot a commercial project in Orlando, Florida for Nemours Children’s Hospital. It was a really amazing experience… much like shooting a regular family session, except there were stylists and wardrobe people, and art directors, and tons of catered food and snacks and at least 10 people standing behind me watching at any given time. My husband and kids came too and we got to go to Disney World and stay in a hotel with soft white robes and 6 swimming pools! This will definitely be one of those stories that I tell my grandkids one day. Here are a bunch of my favorites:
A photograph is a small moment in time… life snatched up at 1/100th of a second. It is a sliver of a story so big, so complex– how can I communicate the fullness of life in a fraction of a second? How can I communicate enough of Ashley’s story here before your mobile-device-infected attention span conks out? I’m not sure it is possible. If it is, I haven’t figured it out yet.
Some time-slivers in Ashley’s life are a career as a Marine. A thyroid cancer diagnosis. Meeting the man of her dreams, then marrying him. Having his baby. There was that time he saw a gigantic stuffed tiger at the drug store — the very first gift he bought for his daughter. Cooking amazing meals. Drinking wine. Lots of time-slivers of laughing.
Then there were those time-slivers when he was tired. Really tired. And at first he needed to just suck it up. But then it got worse. There was a heart transplant. But his heart– the man of her dreams – his body wasn’t strong enough to take it and he passed away. Leaving behind a wife, a toddler, and a little baby. A baby that was also in and out of the hospital battling his own health concerns that have left him unable to take food and drink like most other little ones.
The last few years of Ashley’s life play out like a Lifetime movie. But the story didn’t end at the hospital–
Ashley recently moved here to Anderson. A new town, away from her own family. This is the town where her husband grew up. Her kids will never have a memory of their father. They were too young. But maybe they can know him through his family. Their grandparents. Their aunts and uncles and cousins. The ones that look like him and talk like him. The ones that have the same laugh, the same hands, the same quirks. The ones that can retell memory after memory. Time-sliver after time-sliver — so they WILL know their father.
The pictures below are merely 46 tiny time-slivers recorded on a normal, uneventful day. But they are real. Glimmers of what is to come. They are the beginning: A new town. A new home. So new the pictures are not hung and the couch is on back-order. New paint on the walls. New memories to make. These slivers of time announce the beginning of a new chapter in Ashley’s life. But they are also a monument lifted in heart-wrenching honor of the messy/beautiful/painful/hopeful slivers that have led up to today. Humbly declaring that life and death and all the bits in-between are out of our control. So the only thing we can do is Trust with hopefilled Faith that sense will one day be made of what now feels senseless.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
The weight of loss hangs heavy in the air.