Keith + Marla (aka Mom and Dad) and the power of a photograph

Ive shared openly my journey of sorrow and peace surrounding my fathers passing last May. Its no secret that when he passed, I felt broken. Like a shell of myself. It felt like piece of my heart left and was no longer on this earth and no longer an everyday part of my life. He’s been gone 8 months now and ive learned a few things about death and sorrow. The main thing ive learned is that just because he’s no longer on this earth doesn’t mean he is no longer a part of my life. He is still with me in so many ways. He’s with me in the things he taught me. I can point to so many things I can do because of what he taught me. Dumb things like driving in the snow, or how to play basketball, but also things like how to dream, or how to be kind and generous. He was one of the friendliest people, and when he passed, I made a promise to myself that I would try to be more like him in that sense. More friendly. More giving. I thought it was for other people, but its been so good for my heart to feel like im emulating a part of him.

We knew right away after his diagnosis that his cancer was bad. He had stage 4 prostate cancer and would eventually endure 3 rounds of chemo, hormone therapy, radiation and a round of something called Keytruda that kicked his butt. He fought so hard for four and a half years before the cancer finally took him. The last time when his cancer was “back”, things just felt different and we knew that his time was close. I had traded a wedding for a stay at a nice big cabin that could hold my entire gigantic family. Just days before the trip, dad had routine tests that showed his cancer was back and that it was bad this time. My family really needed that trip to be together and to process the news. We had already planned on doing family photos, but it seemed even more needed and meaningful with dads recent news. That was October and he passed away in May. Im so grateful for the timing of that trip and those photos. Even though dad was with us for several months after these photos, the chemo and keytruda really did a number on him and these are some of the last photos we have of him that really look like him. After these, he looked so sick and frail. Im so glad I have these photos of dad looking like dad. Smiling and full of life.

The photos we took are without a doubt my most prized possession because of what we captured and what they represent. They represent a whole and complete family. I know my dad will always be with us, in so many ways, but that was the last time we got to be all together here on this earth, and I have photos of us all smiling, whole and complete as a family. That is so meaningful to me.

The portraits I took of my parents that day are so powerful, they bring me to tears literally every time I look at them. That is the point of a photo -to capture a memory and provide you with emotions you felt in that moment. These photos bring me so much sorrow for the piece of my heart that I lost, but it also brings me so much joy and peace to know that I have these photos of him forever, and that I was able to provide my mom with these memories. She has several of these portraits hanging in her bedroom and I know how much they mean to her. As we took the photos, I asked them to hold each other close, and you can see the progression of dads emotions. He knew, even as we were taking those photos, how meaningful they would be and he became emotional. These are the most powerful portraits ive ever taken and im so glad it got to capture these movements for my parents.

I was looking at these photos today because I just plain ole miss my pops today and sometimes I need to look at these photos and remember his face and his smile. I can hear his laugh when I look at these photos. They reminded me the power of photographs and that what I get to do for a living is so important and meaningful. Im so grateful my mom has these photos to remember her sweetheart. And im so glad that my siblings and I get to have them as a reminder of what my parents had. It wasn’t perfect, but it was them, and even though he’s gone, I have a reminder of sacrifice and unconditional love to look at anytime i need a good cry :)

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