This blog post should have been written two years ago but it has always just seemed to soon and I have never really had the words.
Since the time this happened I have read numerous beautifully written articles from friends in the photography industry who have tragically lost clients, friends and family members to illness, car accidents, natural disasters and sweet little babies that just didn’t stand a chance. This article comes to mind and I so wish that I could turn back time so that this story was different.
It started back in 2009 when I chose Patty’s family as a winner to my “tell me why your family is not boring” contest. Her son, Colyn, had a service dog named Fina and she stole my heart immediately. The bond between them was palpable so, it was a no brainer. I wanted to tell their story. A fifteen year old boy with freckles and the most beautiful black retriever I had ever seen. Yes, please!
After a few attempts of trying to get the family on the calendar the holidays had come and gone. I had just moved from Murrieta to Fallbrook and the holiday rush had finally ceased and I was back to work. I called to pester Patty one last time to get her session on the calendar. The phone rang and she answered, “hello?” I started to talk but after a few words my brain had caught up to my mouth, in typical amy b. fashion, and my words just stopped and it was silent. I could tell that her world had been rocked within that single word. I had no reason to believe Colyn was gone. He was not terminally ill. All that rang through my body was Why didn’t I place more stringent deadline on booking? I could physically feel her pain in her silence and a sense of guilt and failure washed over me as a photographer. It was certainly something I had never felt before and it has most definitely changed my outlook on the actual value and importance of what we do as photographers.
I was devastated for this family I barely knew and for a sweet boy that I would never get to meet. There are no words. It simply was too late.
Over the past two years Patty and I have become quite good friends through facebook and recently she was nice enough to share her perspective:
I was so excited to enter the contest the Amy posted in her blog in July 2009. I had been wanting to have photos taken of our youngest son and his service dog, Fina. He had her less than a year and she was already his best friend. I knew I needed to document the love that was growing between them in some way. Honestly, I had scheduled an appointment at our local WalMart only to be given grief about bringing the dog with us even though she was a service dog. It was ok though because I wanted something much more than what WalMart could offer. So, I wrote up Colyn’s story, included a few snap shots I had taken, dropped a video I had made and sent it off to Amy with my fingers and toes crossed! It felt like an eternity until it was announced on August 10 that we had won a session! Even Colyn was excited, not about getting his picture taken, but having his picture taken with his girl, yes, she truly was his best friend.
We were busy planning a big vacation to Alaska so we decided we would schedule the photo shoot for when we got back. Our son got sick during the last days of our vacation and was admitted to the hospital as soon as we returned home. The admission lasted 2 weeks. We celebrated his 15th birthday when he came home! It took him weeks to really recover and get some energy back. I knew we could finally schedule the photo shoot as soon as the craziness of the holidays were over.
January 12 everything changed again. Colyn became so sick again and this time never recovered. Instead of scheduling a photo shoot, we found ourselves sorting through the photos we had of our precious son, longing for just one more. We realized that even though we had a large file of them on our computers, it just wasn’t enough. If we had just taken the time before our vacation and had those pictures taken. We also found that we didn’t have any recent pictures of Colyn with relatives even though they were with him frequently. Sadly, they didn’t like to have their pictures taken. We’ve learned some hard lessons through this. *You can never have enough pictures. *Your hair/make up won’t matter, what matters is the memories that are captured in the photo. *You may not like to have your picture taken but loved ones might want pictures of you.
When Amy called me a month after Colyn had passed away, it was another loss. It was then I realized I had lost the opportunity for a photo shoot of my son and his best friend because I was too busy packing. If I could go back and do it all over again…. well, that goes without saying.
I had the pleasure of meeting up with Patty and her family a few weeks ago for their long over due session. We ventured into Colyn’s room for a spell and Fina immediately jumped up on the bed, grabbed one of Colyn’s stuffed bears and touched our hearts.
Because I could not have said it better myself…I leave you with the wise words of my talented friend Michele –
If you have not had family pictures taken within the past 3 years, promise me right now that tomorrow morning, you will find someone to do it. I don’t care if it’s a neighbor, I don’t care if it’s a portrait studio, I don’t care if it’s a tripod and a remote. Just do it. We have no guarantees in life, but at least we can have the photos to prove that we were here, we were together, and we were happy.
xo, amy b.
You can see more from their family session HERE.