sounds morbid, right? well, let me connect the two.
it was february 19, 1999. ill never forget the day. you don't really forget the details of the day when you find out someone you love has died. it was an icy & dark evening. my mother upstairs making dinner, my sisters and i hanging out in the basement with the TV on. the phone rang. i could hear the panic in her voice. the hard clang of her hanging up the phone seemed to echo with her forceful and frantic hand. she raced down the stairs to us and let out a tearful yelp "Dziadzi DIED!" and began to cry, with her hands over her mouth and her eyes closed. my younger sister about 7 years old then totally broke down to the floor and my older sister and i speechless & broken hearted.
Dziadzi, which is Polish for grandfather was not ill. had not been sick. he dropped dead from a heart attack after shoveling the snowy drive way 2 days before. he had been hospitalized for observation and the next day he would go to burlington for more tests. he didn't make it.
i remember getting our jackets on, abandoning dinner and the TV. we were at the hospital, in a private room and my grandmother just sat there with a glaze and distracted distance, almost as if she was living these moments in a dream.
i saw him. we all saw him. he looked the same, but not moving. i touched his nose and stared and watched him. it was him, but lifeless.
we all went to my grandmother, Babci's. the moment i entered the house, i ran up to her dresser to stare at the black and white framed photograph she had of him. we use to walk pass it when we were younger, but this time, at this moment of loss, it meant everything in the world to me. i couldn't stop staring at it, or thinking of it. it was taken before i was born, a younger version of the grandfather i knew, but it was still him. how he is sitting, that classic expression of a half smile, half scowl, his clothes. that look is SOO him! i never knew him as a smoker, but you can peek into his life pre-grandchildren and previous habits.
i raced down with this framed photographed and asked Babci if i could have it. she sadly sighed and said "oh no, sweetie, that's my Dziadzi." and i couldn't blame her. it was her photograph and her special token. to this day i don't dare ask her to borrow it, or let it leave her house, so a quick cell phone shot of it is all i can share. it lives on the top shelf of her bedroom near her bed. i know she treasures it, looks at it and i understand the feelings it must bring her every time she seems him in that image.
to me, in that moment, completely grandfather-less, photography had no price tag or value. perhaps it comes from the "pack rat" feeling i've always had for things. saving everything, and everything having sentimental value. but i can't help but think the magic of freezing, capturing an image, a slice of life, a peek into how it use to be, how you are transported back just by looking at, to savor, to cherish and to love and to value for generations.
my goal as a wedding photographer is to not take you away from your guests or get you off quicker to cocktail hour because your cheeks burn from smiling through all the family formals, or that your portraits or flowers are vain and petty, or that you have to pose or smile or look at the camera a certain way. sometimes life goes unscripted and sometimes that's just perfectly how it goes and how perfectly the photograph turns out to be. tomorrow the wedding is over. tomorrow everyone leaves and these images are with you forever. they will be shared, passed and loved within your family. and after you die, (morbid, sorry!) your family will treasure and honor these moments that were the lucky ones to have been captured. not on a USB, not on a computer file. framed on your dresser, so you and your children and grandchildren can walk pass them & look at them every single day.