During even the darkest days of grief, I had within me a drive to keep moving. Forward, onward, inward… I shied away from very little. Church hurt, but I kept going – sat in the front and let the tears flow unhindered. Shopping hurt, but I kept going – walking to the boy aisles to quietly suffer. It hurt to share my story with strangers, but I sought out opportunities. There was very little that didn’t hurt actually, but somehow hurting held a glimmer of hope, a shimmer of aliveness. If I wasn’t hurting, I would be ‘nothing’… because I certainly wasn’t capable of anything else. Hurting seemed just a little better than nothing (on most days anyway).
I knew the day would come when our family of four would take our first family photograph without Graham. It was a horrible prospect. Of course, I could have held off indefinitely – I could have simply chosen to never book a professional session ever again. I could have at least waited longer… But it was almost because I knew it would hurt, that I wanted it. I wanted to hurt, to move through yet another horrible ‘first’. Another ‘normal’ that was suddenly anything but. Hurting was the closest thing I had to living and I was desperately trying to hang on.
We scheduled a time in early winter. I wanted bleakness. I wanted ugly. I quietly hoped that beauty might somehow show up, but I knew it wouldn’t be possible without the barren truth of pain and emptiness.
To be honest, I don’t have much to say about the day. I remember the kindness of the photographer and the greyness of the sky. I remember my daughters’ laughter. I remember the heaviness in my eyes, the first time wearing makeup since his funeral. The air was heavy with damp coolness. Autumn’s colors fading away into foreboding winter.
Near the end, our sweet photographer folded up the bulky baby clothes quilt and stuffed it into the small egg basket that only a year before had been filled with a giggly Graham. A few balloons waved in the wind and his green crinkle monster was reverently placed in the center of it all. As she snapped a few memorial pictures, I leaned back into my husband’s arms. My goofy girls suddenly started jumping and dancing from behind the camera’s eye, “Say cheese! Big smile!” they hollered.
“Are you making the monster laugh?” the photographer coaxed, and my girls became even more animated. The three of them pretended together… they found a little life amongst the wreckage.
The tears finally came and the hurt plowed me over. The injustice. The wrongness. The ugly.
When we got home that evening, I crawled into bed and stayed there for almost two days straight. Evan cared for our living children and sheltered me while I gave way to consuming nothing.
When the pictures arrived I looked at them but couldn’t see them. I mostly let them be, toying with plans for a Christmas card, maybe a thank you around his anniversary. Today I was inspired to try again.
Today I see a lot of things in these photographs. Mostly I see the beauty.
Photography by Seven Acre Photo