I am not good at writing down my thoughts regularly for an audience, but today is a special day. A woman, a colleague, and friend that I was looking forward to getting know more, and to turn to for more future advice, has passed-on after a fight with cancer. She leaves behind a loving family, and many friends, who have nothing but the kindest and gracious things to say about her.
Her name, is Annie.
In case her family sees this blog entry, I will apologize in advance, in overstepping into their love sphere of having Annie to themselves. But you see, Annie, and today’s memorial service, reminds me so much of my mother, and my loss for her. While these two women are not the same, there was something so special about Annie, that she would dare, remind me, of the most amazing person in my world, my mother, who ended her time on earth after a battle with cancer, just 7 years ago. I didn’t have a chance to say a real ‘good-bye’ to my mom, and I was in a daze through her funeral. But sitting at our business meeting where I know Annie from last Tuesday, everyone saying kind tributes to her memory, and sitting at the memorial service today, listening to her family and lovely friends paying tributes to her, it reminded me, of a life well lived, and the loss these wonderful people leave behind.
The Annie I knew, was soft spoken, strong, down to earth, yet elegant. She was a financial advisor, a wife and a mother of 3 teenagers when I first met her. In the best way possible, Annie didn’t feel like any other finance professional I’ve met. She really cared about the topics she presented, and there wasn’t an ounce of sales pitch-ness about her. When I was photographing her family portrait session, I noticed that her 3 children really liked each other, and their parents, yet had the humorous teasing in them, that made them, very ‘cool’ and likeable. I admired that amazing trait, especially during the teen years. And when I complimented Annie in a follow up meeting about her lovely family, she was so gracious in accepting my comments, but also giving credit to the children, and what great potential they each had ahead of them. I remember a separate conversation where she said the best mother she can to be to her children is by being a happy mom, regardless of whether a mother was a stay-at-home, or work-away-from-home mother. After seeing the proof in her children, it really made an impact on me as I was expecting my baby back then. The memorial service only confirmed my observations on how loving each of her family members were, how accomplished, and mature, and how kind Annie was, even to her numerous pets.
I was contacted by Annie’s family about her funeral portrait on Monday night. It needed to be completed, and framed in about 48hrs. It reminded me of the panic I felt, 7 years ago, when I was given the task of taking care of my mom’s funeral portrait (before I was a professional photographer). Cancer had shown so much on my mom, that no recent photo would be appropriate. I had to retouch my mom’s portrait to soften the harsh lines of cancer, and since no quality print store could produce a print in less than 3 day turnaround, I turned to a kinko’s, and had her final portrait printed on a plotter. I then scrambled to find a frame, good enough, to do justice to her image…
I quickly pulled up Annie’s family portrait session from 3 summers ago, handing my toddler to my husband, asking him to get her ready for bed while I do the final touch-ups to Annie’s portrait. I left a frantic message to the framer who also deeply cared for Annie, asking if a custom frame was even possible in such a short turn around. I sent the image to print, with a rush order charge, and eagerly refreshed the tracking info on my screen 24hrs later. Updating the framer more frequently than I can remember, then the dreaded message came up on FedEx that the print will be delivered by 8PM… that’s 2 hours after the frame shop closes! I call FedEx, pleading if there was anyway to get a hold of the dispatcher, or the delivery truck, or have me drive to the truck. They eventually tell me that they will go out of their way to drop off my delivery within the next hour. I quickly dressed my toddler in her snow suit, loaded up the car with her snacks, and paced our front porch, waiting for the FedEx truck… mumbling to my daughter, “today is your grandmother’s birthday, not daddy’s mom, but mommy’s mom, your grandmother in heaven…” Feb 12th, she would have turned 64 this year if she had still been with us… Then the truck showed up, I ran up to the driver, with my toddler in tow, “Hi, that package is for me!” and ran straight to my car, loaded up my daughter, and called the framer as I ran around to the driver side of the car. “I will be there in 20 mins!” I rushed into the framer, after doing acrobatics to get my daughter out of the wrong side of the car due to the high piles of snow. I had chosen the frame details with the framer over the phone earlier in the day, so all they needed was the print. The framer told me that he’d call me in about 30 mins… I bundled up my daughter, and went across the street to a bakery, and bought her a biscuit, and watched her little mouth nibble on the sweet treat. When the frame was all set to go, I thanked the framer, and hopped back into the car to deliver the frame to Annie’s family… it was just about 6PM when I handed the frame to her son. The last time I was at this house, I was here to take the family portrait, and now I’m here delivering the funeral portrait… my occupation truly is strange… I photograph life from beginning to end… and, my biggest inspiration to become a photographer was because I saw the importance of photographs after my mom passed away, something to remember them by, something to go on with… death inspired me to photograph life’s beauty.
Below are some of Annie’s favorite images from a family portrait session I did of her family from 3 summers ago. I’m so glad I have these images to remember her by, and hope, these images will help preserve her memories…
Thank you, Annie…
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