Beautiful Ugly

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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Photography by Seven Acre Photo

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2 thoughts on “Beautiful Ugly

  1. Susan Flemr April 7, 2015 / 5:54 am

    So much beauty…like Katherine Boo’s book, Behind The Beautiful Forever

    Like

  2. Carrie Rollins April 7, 2015 / 9:21 am

    Love these….and you guys….As soon as I scrolled down and saw the picture of Nora and Charlie with the balloon, it instantly reminded me of Pooh and Piglet walking together! So sweet.

    Like

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