I was surprised when Vicky called and said” “I want you to photography Mike and I”. After all, she lived 3 hours away in Apple Valley, why call me, I thought? They had just completed 4 weddings within all their children…again, why me? Of course, I was flattered, humbled actually when she told me she loved my style of photography, and she really wanted me, my heart melted.
As I interviewed her as to why she wanted photographs of her little family (the love of her life, Mike, and their 2 dogs), she told me: “We have had some really hard times, ya know? I want photographs to show my children that with the love of Christ, commitment to each other, you can get through anything and love. And that love will continue to grow”.
We scheduled the session for my favorite dog beach in Coronado. It was chilly, but not cold in December and the water was wonderful! What happened next was a bit of a fairy tale…
People are usually nervous at first when someone follows them with a camera, but after she ran with the dogs and they all played, they seemed to relax. With minor direction, Mike and Vicky danced in the water while the incoming waves washed over them. He twirled her, they giggled and laughed at what I asked them to do…. But, when people love each other and you ask them to dance, they start focusing on each other and the moment instead of the nut getting wet with the camera!
Next came magic, he put her on his back and twirled her around, they played like they were teenagers courting and in the moments when they kissed, they only saw each other; they were only in that moment.
Vicky had been battling cancer and while I thought she was better, she wasn’t. I spoke with her one Wednesday and she was having a very hard time. But after talking for awhile we were laughing, sharing stories of encouragement, faith and how God planned for our humanity. God knows us better than we know ourselves and Christ said: “In our weakness He is strong”. This I truly saw in Vicky.
Mike called me the following Wednesday to tell me she had died. He started crying and blurted out: “She didn’t place the order and we have no pictures of her”. She died and they had no photographs….my heart broke. I was calm as we went over what her favorites were, but I cried as I prepared them for printing and I cried when I called my lab and said this is special, please make this happen.
I am surrounded by her memory, her laugh, her images and her great faith in Christ. A photograph of her and Mike acting like teenagers hangs on the wall in my studio, it’s a story of great love. You see, in her passing, she left a great testimony, a family that she loved and devoted herself to and a man that was the love of her life.
Today her family, her mother, and step-dad, her children, and step-children and Mike with the dogs are all together in upstate New York, where Vicky is from. They are all together to spread her ashes in this one spot that she loved so much. They are all together to celebrate her life, her love and to say goodbye. Goodbye, a goodbye that is so very final.
I learned the power of a photograph from Vicky. Someday she will have grandchildren and all those grandchildren will hear stories of an amazing woman that was mischievous, loving and filled with laughter. An amazing woman who had great faith in a great God and made sure she shared that with every relationship she had. And while her grandchildren listen to the stories, they will her photographs and these photographs will keep those stories and memories alive.
This is what Love looks like. A love built on the best and hardest times, filled with triumphs and defeats. A love that never quit in the face of the impossible. This is a Love built to last.