On the eve of Thanksgiving, I am writing a post that is probably a bit unexpected. All day long, I’ve spent time with my family and can’t wait to see so many distant relatives tomorrow as we celebrate one of my favorite holidays of the year.
Then it hit me. In the end, it’s ALL about family. Not the job we have. Not the house we live in. Not the clothes we own or the car we drive. It’s about the people who have loved and nurtured us into adulthood then the children we have the joy of parenting ourselves. I have been so very blessed to be raised by parents who did everything right. I was showered with love and affection every day I lived under their roof (whether it was in Atlanta, Nashville, Chattanooga or Mississippi). Then I married the love of my life and together we’ve been blessed to raise two girls side-by-side. They mean everything to us. They are our hope for the future and proof of the commitment we made to one another 16 years ago.
So, as we head into the holiday season full of joy and thanksgiving, I am mindful of those who have crossed my path in very different circumstances. It was a call from a NICU nurse saying a baby wasn’t going to make it. A cord was wrapped around…..we just don’t know why…….he’s perfectly healthy…….couldn’t be revived……..etc. At crazy hours of the night, I grab my camera and lighting equipment and will myself to enter into their grief for one reason- because that child was their everything. Just as my girls are to me. For 6, 7, 8 or 9 months, they hoped a healthy baby would be in their backseat on the drive home from the hospital. Then, it all came crashing down with no warning and all those dreams died in one day.
I am not the best photographer. Others are far more skilled in composition, lighting and posing. But God did not call me to be perfect at my craft- just willing to answer the call.
At the end of my life, I will look back on my career as a photographer and know….it was my calling, not my career. God hand-picked me to be the one who would use her camera to document the few fleeting hours these strangers had together as a family. I took the ONLY images on the earth that document their dreams and the precious child who came and went too soon. For 4 years, I’ve slipped in and out of somber hospital rooms creating the most important and private work of my career.
I give thanks to God for reminding me of why I must pursue this dream of photography. It’s because somewhere, in their deepest sorrow, a mother or father, picked up a photograph I took……ran their fingers along the curve of their baby’s face……and through heavy tears, managed a smile. That child was real. He or she mattered. He or she was worth capturing and remembering.