1455 mom2.jpg

Mourning is a strange and complex thing.  It evolves but yet it never leaves me.  It's been two years since I lost my mom.  I was alone in a hotel room in Canada when I got the call from my brother.  Shock isn't the word to even describe it.  I just walked slowly to the window and stared. I stared out, trying to understand the reality and finality of his words. Was this real?  I had just talked to her the night before.  I had just asked her if she was going to die and she had just told me everything would be alright.  How could my mother be dead?

That question's haunted me ever since.  

How could she be dead? After she passed away, when I was still living in California, I'd walk downstairs still expecting to find her watching tv or working on her computer.  But she wasn't.  She'd never be there again... and that's the most agonizing part of it all. Those moments when I forget she's passed away, and I try to retrieve some part of her but I can't.  

It's been a constant struggle to fight through the sadness and continue with my life.  To sort through the guilt and regret and to avoid the what if's and how come's.  That's something about losing a loved one or parent that I can't explain to people.  Unless you've lost a parent you were really close to it's hard to understand, and even then it's hard to understand how I feel.  I think it's even hard to navigate how people in my own family mourn because everyone deals with loss differently. 

But the thing I always cling to that has always given me peace is that God has a plan.  He had a plan that involved my mom dying when she did.  He has a plan that even now I've only seen the beginning of.  It's a plan I may never fully understand, but it's a plan I believe has great purpose.  

It's interesting though.  Mourning is somewhat of a selfish experience for me.  I think about how I feel and how sad I am without my mother.  How I was too young to lose her.  How I'll never hang out or talk to her again.  How much I hurt without her.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing that I feel those kinds of things, but looking outside of myself the truth is, my mother is living out eternity with our Lord.  She's no longer in pain or going to the hospital or being inhibited by her physical limitations.  She's living in God's glory in heaven.  And that's something I can celebrate when I'm most sad.  That even though I miss her, she really is in a better place. 

My mom will always be the one I crave to confide in and strive to be like.  I miss her like crazy, and I'll always love her with my whole heart.  Even two years later, I still cry over her death and all that I lost.  The pain of losing her will probably never go away, but I find comfort and peace in knowing she's in God's presence.  I will continue to celebrate the life she lived and the new life she's living in heaven.   I praise God for all twenty-nine years He gave me with her.  She was a loving and kind mother, and a great source of joy to all who knew her.  

why pictures matter.

1360 mom Since my mom passed away it's been an adjustment to say the least.  Last night I had a nightmare about my parents only to wake up and remember my mom wasn't here anymore.  I started sobbing immediately.  Sometimes it isn't the reality that my mom passed away that makes me cry; it's the fear that somehow I'm going to forget her forever.  Sometimes I can't remember what she looked liked after chemo or what her smile looked like or the way she'd sit at the computer writing emails.  But that's when pictures matter.  I have this picture of my mom that's out of focus and the white balance is off but it's a picture of her making some paper craft.  It was right before she started chemo and lost all that weight.  We were happy.  And despite the poor quality of that picture, I love it because it spurs up memories of my mom.

My dad's been uncovering all these letters and old pictures from my mom.  He's so happy sharing those memories with me and my siblings.  And to tell you the truth, seeing those pictures really does make me happy.  I love to see the pictures of my mom en route somewhere or in the middle of doing something. It reminds me of my mom's spirit and how alive she once was.  And how happy she must be in heaven.  I'm so thankful that there was someone who snapped those pictures of my  mom.  They weren't concerned with lighting or composition.  They saw a moment and wanted a picture. So simple.

As a photographer I've been in this rut of only taking "pretty" pictures of "pretty" things.  I've strayed from the days of taking pictures of everything.  Nowadays I find myself "styling" images because that's what I do for a living.  But looking at that pile of images from when my mom was alive reminds me how beautiful the "imperfect" picture can be.  I'm encourage to take pictures of the "ugly" moments, the moments that usually escape my memory first.  Because when a moment or love one is gone, it's these images that really help you preserve your memories.  So I want to urge everyone out there, take a picture of your every day life.  One day you'll be grateful for those images.

For me when I feel myself struggling to remember my mom, I'm so grateful for images like these that trigger those memories I thought I lost.

on mourning...

"Guide me in your truth and teach me,for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long." Psalm 25:5

Woodside Picnic Wedding Photographer | Cheryl & Rob

Recently I found out someone I knew lost her father. At the same time I've been wrapping up the final weddings I shot around my mother's death. I shot a wedding the weekend before, of and after my mom passed away. And truthfully it's been a struggle to even look at the images from these weddings. When I look at the images I want to see how happy I was to photograph each couple. I want to remember how blessed I felt that each of these couples chose me. I want to remember how happy I was with my mom at those times, but I struggle to. All I remember is that my mom passed away and the regret that comes along with that.

I regret... ...that didn't get my mom a red velvet cupcake from that picnic wedding. ...that I was too busy editing to spend time with her. ...that I went to a photo shoot instead of hanging out with her. ...that I wanted to shoot a destination wedding and arrived there four days earlier to explore. ...that I stayed upstairs all night to finish my editing before my trip, instead of going downstairs and spending time with my mom. I even walked downstairs to hang out with her at one point, but it was too late because she had already gone to sleep. ...that I didn't say good-bye to my mom the day I flew out to Toronto. ...that I waited two days before I called her. ...that even though I was fearful she would die and I'm a photographer, I didn't take more pictures with her. ...that I never remembered to give her my extra external hard drive. ...that it took me so long to clean for her.

I am learning every day that mourning the loss of a loved one is a long and arduous journey. I still find myself lost in crying on days that don't seem to ever end and feeling as if I've already forgotten her. Even when I want to reach out to someone to help me with my sorrow I realize I can't. There's nothing for me to say except to say that a part of me is lost forever. Since the day my mom passed away I've become more aware of how much of my life included her. My routine is gone because a lot of my day revolved around her. My ability to sort out of my feelings is gone because my mom was my main sounding board. My translator is gone because my mom always knew how I was feeling or what I wanted to say and knew how to explain that to others. I can't even really explain how much my life has changed since I lost her. I just can't fully put it to words.

Many of my friends who've gone before me tell me the sadness never leaves, but they reassure me that it does get easier to bear. So I look forward to those days. And I force myself to remember all the good (because there's actually so much of it).

I remember... ...that I got to talk to my mom before she passed away. much my mom loved me. amazing couples who were incredibly understanding and compassionate to me. ...that my mom and I had a great relationship. ...that my mom knew I loved her. ...that I got to help her at kindergarten promotion. ...the many happy trips to craft stores and daiso and starbucks and quickly and jamba juice. mom died happy. mom would encourage me to forgive myself for my regret if she were here. ...the endless list of things and people whom I'm thankful for. regret would ever change how much my mom wanted me to be happy right now. ...there are more happy memories than regrets.

God is always faithful. And even in our saddest and weakest times He is there to give unending peace and comfort.

Life doesn't always make sense, but hope does not disappoint.

the sharp knife.

Hawaii I think a lot. Recent it's been about how I'm feeling. How I constantly feel on the verge of tears. I wonder how those before me have managed to continue on with their lives as I'm here frozen in time, lost in a fog.  I see my friends and my cousins and my parents, who've lost their own parents, in a different way.  I wonder if they've been living in this same unrepairable sadness as I have.  How long have they felt lost?  How had I been consoling when they were going through what I'm going through?  Had I even been consoling?  From what I'm told, I understand this feeling may never go away.  I will always be sad to some degree, quietly mourning my loss, living a life that constantly reminds me of that empty spot in my heart.  Whenever I feel like this I call out to God asking Him to show me some meaning or purpose for my  mother's death.  I desperately pray for some sort of sign, hoping it will bring me some comfort.  I've been at this sad place in my life many times before, in lesser degrees most definitely, but God answers back almost always with this same gentle encouragement...

Going through adversity enables me to connect with God and those in my life in a way I haven't before.  Now I know more.  Now I can relate more.  Now I can love more.

Losing my mother made me realize that I could have never imagined the kind of pain and loss that comes with losing a parent.  But now that I know, I feel some sort of hope that someday I can use this experience to comfort those who have to follow after me.  That somehow I could use this experience to bless others.  At least, I hope so.