In October, the leaves turn brilliantly beautiful colors, the fair arrives, and the crispness of Fall starts to take root. It’s the month of my wedding anniversary; the month of my father’s passing. October and I have a strange relationship, and it has influenced much of who I am as a person and a photographer. I promised to blog more often about these roots, and so tonight’s post takes a more personal turn.
2002 began with love and laughter – I met my husband that year and knew I’d met the man I was going to marry. We had a comical start to our relationship – like many people, missed connections and overlapping friendships brought us together at just the right time.
Our first date was July 19, and then almost 3 months to the day, on October 17, my father passed away.
It was sudden – no chance for goodbye, no chance to change the future or the past. He went to bed on October 16 and never got up again. At 24, with just one phone call from my mom, I felt my world shatter.
I’ve read that there are times in your life that you can point to and say “this changed me and the course of my life forever.” In 2002, the year started with promise and hope, yet closed with unspeakable loss.
Much of that next year is a blur in my memory. I think it’s God’s grace that pushes us through some of the hardest times of our lives with blotted out memories and patchworked thoughts. I will always remember moments, like tattered photographs blowing in the wind.
I will always remember the not knowing – not knowing how to return to my home, how to return to my life, how to start to feel normal again in a world that felt very much like it would never, ever be normal again.
Then there is my mom’s courageous, strong presence during a time that was so difficult for her, yet she took care of us first. The moment of telling my brother, standing there at his college. Holding my sister’s hand as we walked through the following days, weeks, months, and years with grief. The support of family and friends that I didn’t have to ask for, but needed and appreciated so much.
Most of all, I will remember that my dad was witty, funny, stubborn, loving, protective … and did the best Donald Duck impression I’ve ever heard. He loved God, family, our farm, butterbeans, and the state fair more than it seemed possible that any man could.
He didn’t always have a lot to say, but when he spoke, everyone listened. That always impressed me…like the business meetings at our small Baptist church where he’d sit and listen for what felt like hours, wheels turning in his mind. When he stood up to speak, the room always fell quiet. I’ve heard that’s what he was like at work as well.
He was thoughtful and artistic, writing funny and poignant poems for special occasions – yet he knew how to fix our tractors every time they broke (which was often). We danced to records in our living room, and I always chose Fancy Free. My parents taught me to love the greats of country music – from Willie to Merle, the Oak Ridge Boys to the Statler Brothers, and Dolly to Reba.
One of the things I loved (and as a teenager, hated) most was his ability to call me out. He saw me as I am, and what I could be, and he made me live up to that. It was a hard lesson to learn but a critical one for me in adulthood. He taught me survival, but more importantly, he taught me to follow my own path. It’s not something I realized until years after he passed, and I’ve often whispered a thank you for the courage to live originally.
I will also always remember that at that time, my husband was not my husband – he barely had the chance to know my dad, yet he stood beside me and held me up when he could have walked away.
Two years later, planning our wedding, I struggled with the loss of my dad and so I honored his memory by walking the aisle alone. It was a hard decision, but it was my small way to say “Thank you for teaching me strength to stand on my own as well as with my husband.”
We’ve been married 6 years this October, and have supported each other through another critical, life-changing moment when our son was born premature at just 29 weeks and 3 pounds. More than anything, I am grateful for our faith in God, our now-healthy and supremely energetic son, and that I have been blessed with not only good family and friends, but a husband who has been beside me through the two hardest times of my life.
If you’ve read this far, you are probably wondering what in the world this has to do with photography. The short answer is…everything. The long answer? It’s late, and the midnight oil is burning…so that will have to wait for another post.