It is the culmination of all of your life expereinces that make you who you are. I think that is something that I believe most. It of course is how you choose to interpret your experience that eatablishes your personality and how your experiences will impact your life.
Nineteen years ago my world changed in a way that I never knew possible. One of my favorite people in this world, my cousin who read much more like a brother as we had lived only feet apart and shared in many, many childhood memories together, lost his life in a horrible car accident. The traumatic fact that he was on his way to my wedding rehearsal dinner pales in the comparison of the loss that I have felt in my life. For there are still days I miss him so much my heart hurts like the moment I learned the news.
I will often make references of my loss but I have never shared it as publicly as in this moment. More because I want to sing about the postivity that there is in this life. But today I feel it is important to to share how such feelings of immense sadness can inspire your personal greatness.
It was by no small coincidence that my professsion is all about capturing the connection and emotion that we have between our loved ones. In fact, it was that loss that inspired the very premise of what I do. I have known first hand, since I was a young mother, how vulnerable life can be. How one of the people you love most in this moment can not be promised in the next. I have never wanted to put that spin on my work but it is at the core of the beauty. The beauty of you. The beauty of connection. The beauty of what I see when I look through my camera.
As I have wavered through this amazing journey of capturing what I see, if there is ever a moment of doubt if I am doing what I am meant to do, it is always that premise that instantly puts my soul at ease. Keep shooting, keep capturing, this is the most cherished gift you can give with your life.
After eight years of working with thousands of military families and worrying about many of them in harms way over the years, I never thought loosing my first client would hit so close to home. But oh how it did. Living all over the world has prevented me from being around for many family moments. So I finally met Richard when I was down to photograph his newborn daughter and my sweet cousin last year in DC. Richard was a gentle giant. I say giant as I am not the tallest girl around, so to me he felt bigger than life. His hands cuped around his little girl and were almost the same size as her.
When I read just a little while ago that Richard had lost his life in a motorcycle accident, it too seemed larger than life. At first I questioned, then I cried, and then I wanted to protect my little cousin from every ounce of it. Through all the sadness came one resounding joy for me. Like a gift, I remembered what I had captured for them just one year ago. Richard curled up with his daughter. Richard with his arms around them both protecting them. Portraits that now are more than paper, they share a story with a special little girl. A story about how much her father loved her. A story that may have not been told unless I truly knew the value in this life. A story inspired by my own loss many moons ago.
As I try to find the magical words to pull all of these thoughts together, they escape me. I know it is because it all is too close. But when I sat down to write this to you today, I was inspired to share with you the passion behind what I do. So that you could get a glimpse into what I see and why I see it. That sometimes the inspiration is raw and full of truth. The truth that we are all here together now and that is all that is promised. Savor it, enjoy it and well, let’s capture it in order to protect it.
And maybe more than that, the true inspiration that I hope you find, is to rise up from your loss and use it to share the beauty of this world. You.
Richard, thank you for the most precious gift. Little Peyton.