In June, I met Ashley, Coty, & Jenna. You might have seen them or read my blog about them when we did a family session to officially announce they are hoping to adopt. But that wasn't when I met them. It was a sunny day in June when I walked into a hospital room on the labor and delivery floor of the hospital. There was a sign on the door that said "Please see the nurses station before entering the room". Earlier that week Ashley had twins. Unfortunately, when I got there, it was to photograph her family before they left the hospital without their babies. The hurt on their face was tremendous- both their sweet babies had went to be with Jesus. I could feel it all over and getting to see those sweet fragile faces changed my life. As time went on all I could think about was how strong Coty and Ashley were, how they had endured the ultimate loss and still managed to smile for these photos. You see, I had to privilege to take the ONLY photo of the Peeler family of FIVE- Coty, Ashley, Jenna, Jack, & Evi.
Some people say "you just take pictures" or "its just pressing a button". BUT IT ISNT. It's keeping your shit together when theres a family in front of you who is suffering from the worst imaginable loss, it's trying to remember that certain families don't do things you do, or handle things the way you handle them. It's keeping business and friendships separate so you can do your job, but mourning with them too. Today, October 22, 2018, was the day Jack & Evi were due. This was the day Ashley was going to introduce Jenna to her baby brother and sister, and in a few days they were going to walk through their door with two car seat full of love.
Instead, today, we gathered around their headstone. We listened to a letter a grieving mom wrote to her babies in heaven, we gave hugs, shed tears, and released a slew of pink and blue balloons. I got to see Jack & Evi's headstone in person. In the middle was the most precious photo- a photo I took. The only photo the public has seen of Jack & Evi. The photo that represents them. The photo that stuck with me, day and night. See, this isn't the first photo I've taken that's ended up on the front of a headstone, or at the top of an obituary. But it is still a solid reminder that what I do is real. What I do isn't just "taking a picture" or "pressing a button". It's capturing moments that my clients, and friends, can never get back. It's making one single moment last forever. These photos are stills, but the emotion in them is far from it.
I am so blessed to be able to do what I do. Im so honored to capture these moments that have in some cases been the only thing "left". So next time you say- "you just take pictures" to a photographer- think that moment through. You don't know how many deceased babies they've had in front of their camera, how many "angel" parents they've cropped in photos, or how many successful adoptions, weddings, or dedications they've been able to capture for someone. You might not see anything but an image on your screen, or in their frame, but everything means something to somebody. For now, I'll proudly wear my "photographer to angels" shirt, and display Jack & Evi's name on the back- because to me, it means more than just "taking a picture".
As Ashley and Coty wait for someone to fill their arms with love, please keep them in your thoughts as these two moments I was honored enough to photograph with them is not the only days they feel the pain of not having Jack and Evi with them.
"If you want to know what someone fears loosing, see what they photograph the most."