A special day with my dad.
I didn't even type anything yet in the body of this blog, and the tears formed up in my eyes. Yes, I'm PMSing, but that aside, my eyes have been filling with tears at random times so much more lately. Not sad tears. Just tears appreciating the simplest beauty of life.
Today was a special day with my dad. But nothing really special happened. It was just the little moments that made it special.
I stopped by my parents' house to welcome a new friend in our lives. Through my blog, and my mom's blog about my dad and everything he is going through battling cancer right now, an angel of a friend named Shannon appeared in our lives. Over time she has sent one beautiful letter and gift after another to my dad and our family. Having recently lost her own grandmother, she was so sweet to turn her pain of loss into reaching out to perfect strangers and giving of herself so beautifully through random acts of kindness. Shannon was in town for a friend's wedding, so my mom hosted a tea party, and we all met for the first time, even though it felt like getting together with a long lost friend.
Here's a few pics of our visit:
Shannon and I
Shannon and my dad and mom.
After Shannon left, I hung around and crashed on the couch, just chatting with my parents about life, and I read them a sweet email I had just got from my bride Alexis on my iPhone about just seeing her wedding photos I posted yesterday in the entry before this one:
As we knew they would be, the photos are so beautiful. I cannot thank you enough for all your hard work and passion for documenting such a special day for us.
I was flying up to Gainesville to see my family when you put the shots up. As you know, it is the anniversary of my father passing away and there were tears in the car not long after my sister picked me up from the airport. Sometimes the best cure for grief is grieving but when I got home and my mother, sister and I all gathered around the computer to look at the shots you really transported us away from that sadness. We were laughing and pointing and ohhing and ahhing. All the tears were happy ones.
So thanks for giving us that moment together and congratulations on being able to touch people with your work.
After I finished reading the email, my dad didn't say anything. He just got up from his recliner and came and sat on the couch with me. Then he leaned forward and grabbed the small bottle of "holy water" on the coffee table that their friends Donna and Richard had brought back for them from a recent trip to Jeruselum.
"Will you pray for me and then apply the holy water to the spot where my cancer is?" my dad asked. "Hearing that email, I see you're in good with the Lord right now, and I want some of that."
I was honored to even be able to pray for my dad. All this time, I have been praying "for" my dad during my own quiet time each morning, but I've never prayed FOR my dad in his presence. I kind of have been leaving that to my mom because she's an amazing pray-er. They have these cute little "holy healing sessions" as they call it, where she prays over him and then applies the holy water to his cancer spot.
As my dad went on to describe, "Now, your momma really gets into it, she's shouting at the devil to get out of my body and everything, and just all filled with the spirit praying like a preacher applying the water three times in the name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit." I just laughed and was like "Well, I don't think I can be as entertaining as mom, but I'll do the best I can."
So I grabbed my dad's hand, giving thanks that he was still here another day to hold his hand, soaking in the touch of how his hand felt in mine, and I just opened my heart in prayer the best way I knew how. I don't even remember what I said, but mom claimed it was the best prayer she ever heard. Ha! She has to say that, she's my mom. :-) One thing I've never felt I was good at was praying outloud. I've always kept a prayer journal as the way I talk with God, writing from my heart letter after letter to Him as if I'm writing to a friend, as He speaks to me in return through His word. So praying outloud is something I never feel comfortable doing, but at this point, I would do anything for my dad.
I applied the water to my dad's chest over his lungs, and as I brought my fingers away, his grey chest hairs stuck to my finger as they shed due to the chemo causing hair loss. As I shook off the hair on my fingers, I couldn't help but think of the story he's always told me of how when I was a baby, he used to lay me on his chest and how he never knew pain until my strong little baby hands would grip his hairy chest and hold on for dear life! We have a picture somewhere of me laying on my dad one of those times, but I think it's buried away in my parent's albums somewhere. Gosh, here I am teary eyed again just thinking of all of that, and how, now in a different way, I'm holding on for dear life again, for my dad's life this time, begging each day for a miracle that he'll beat this @!$*% cancer.
In my upcoming interview on F-Stop and Beyond, Ron asked me "What have you learned the most from your dad's situation?" And all I could think was "Don't wait to love. We're not promised tomorrow, so don't wait to love those who are most special to you. It's not until you think you are going to lose a loved one that you realize how important all the little everyday things are with that person." (Or my answer was something like that.) But today was one of those days that I soaked up every moment just sitting on the couch with my dad chatting about life, doing nothing, just hanging out being together with my two favorite people in the world, my heros, my best friends, my mom and dad.
Also today, I got an email from a bride of last year whose sister passed away yesterday. She was asking for a picture of her sister walking down the aisle to showcase at her funeral. My heart broke for her and her family, but reading her email just really made me stop and think, wow, this is why I feel blessed to have the job that I do, to be used to provide others with a memory of not only their wedding day, but of their loved ones as well. While a lot of photographers get caught up in all the accolades and awards in the industry, I honestly could care less and don't persue them because what is most important to me are the relationships and friendships I make serving others through my camera. That's the true success to me. While, yes, I am thankful for any success God has given me in my career, the reason why I am photographer is because I love documenting lives, love and family history. I feel so privileged to give my brides and grooms this amazing gift that they can one day look back on 50 years from now and remember why they fell in love... and the family that surrounded them to celebrate that love.
So it was just the kind of day where I'm reminded how fragile life is.
And suddenly, all the other things I worry about seem to not matter.
Because all that matters is the present.
Living life to the fullest each day we are given.
And loving others to the fullest each opportunity we are given with them.