This post will be unusual in that I don’t plan to share any photos. Rather, I have a bit of a story to tell. It’s a story about a family here in the Portland area that we have been fortunate to know for several years. Dianne worked with Alison in different positions over the years. Alison and Dick invited us to several of their happy gatherings and opened their doors to us with smiles, great hospitality and a chance to meet others in the comfort of their beautiful home. Several years ago we were asked to photograph the wedding of their daughter, Jillian as she started her life with Kyle. It was one of those weddings where you just knew that people were having fun. The attire was “bright Hawaiian” and shoes were optional. The food was great and the wine and beer flowed easily. People were happy. They danced and laughed. That’s what happens at weddings… family and friends join in celebration of a milestone for not only the bride and groom but for the parents and other family as well. It’s a happy time and one of the reasons we enjoyed photographing weddings. Shortly after the wedding we provided Jillian and Alison copies of the digital files we’d prepared. They were happy and all was well. Job done.
One night late in our recent trip to Costa Rica I heard Dianne say “oh no”. This is an attention-getter and she read the note to me. It had been sent to her by Jillian and explained that Dick had passed away unexpectedly. Details for his Celebration of Life were given and we knew we’d be there. This is the other time that family members travel to be together. Hugs and physical presence are what is needed. People to listen and tell stories. People who know that tears and emotions are not only OK, they are anticipated. We joined a stand-up number of people for the Celebration and said hello to other friends as we waited for the program to begin. When we opened the handout describing Dick and the flow of the Celebration we saw that the center piece photo was a family photo we had taken at the wedding. BAM! I instantly ran through a series of emotions as I looked at the smiling faces. Dick’s smile commanded attention in the photo. It always did when he was around. A signature of his, really. We sat in awe as the family presented personal stories about Dick and their family. I am quite sure that I do not have the character or strength to do what they did. They honored Dick in a way that only they could.
At the end of the program they showed a series of photos from the family collection over the years. Vacations, parties, holidays were all presented well and backed by Dick’s favorite music. It was nice. Then came a long series of images from Jillian’s wedding. Dianne and I had taken each of these images and it was remarkable to see them presented in a way that showed Dick and his love for his family. We felt honored and humbled that the images served such a high purpose. You can’t describe a payment like that with money or words. What an honor.
We made our way to speak to both Alison and Jillian after the ceremony. In each case, after the hug and expression of sympathy, both ladies looked at us and explained how grateful they were to have a broad collection of images to draw from for their purpose that day. They thanked us for capturing so many wonderful moments. I was speechless.
So I don’t really know how to tie this blog post off gracefully. The value of the photos we took of this wonderful man and his family rose to a high purpose during the Celebration of Life. We know this can be the case but it was the first time we came face-to-face with the situation. It was rewarding and humbling to see the photos present Dick in a setting full of love and with those who were most important to him. We never know the value of or the use of our images once they are handed over. We hope that they are appreciated. It is truly humbling to know that every once in awhile they will serve to tell a story of a person at their finest.
Our deepest sympathies go out to Alison, Jillian, John and the family. Rest in Peace Richard. You’ll be missed.