This winter, something happened that changed me forever as a person, as a photographer.
This is my mother, with her youngest grandchild, Amy.
Two days after I took this photo, my mother passed away.
She had breast cancer, which spread quickly, and became terminal. She was happy, right until the end, and due to the attentiveness of her palliative care nurses, experienced little pain.
When I was taking this photo, I knew. This was it. This was the last chance I’d ever have.
I’ve pressed the shutter on my camera hundreds of thousands of times. But, that day, when I pressed the little black button and that shutter clicked, it was the loudest sound in the world.
That sounds strange, maybe, but I clearly remember the sound, that particular click I hear and ignore time and again, nearly every day. It was so cut and dried, so mechanical and cold. I was aware of the camera in my hands. It was just a box, a way to capture light. How could this simple machine be doing something so important?
And this was more than merely important. This was crucial, somehow, to me. I knew this would be the last photo of her. I needed this photo to exist.
I love to take photos of peoples’ most important moments. Those photos are about joy.
I know that this story is sad, but this photo is about joy too. My mom was sick, so pale, and so skinny. She looks groggy and over-medicated, and she was, to control her pain. She looks old and tired, nearly unrecognizable from her healthy self, but none of that matters.
To Amy, this is her Grandma, and this will always be her Grandma. This photo will be what Amy has as a memory – she’s too young to recall who her grandmother was, to have more than an idea, a feeling. Maybe she’ll be able to picture the hospital, or she’ll remember the long drives to visit. In this photo, they’re about to race wheelchairs down the hallway. Maybe Amy will remember that. I hope so.
Memory is strange. Why do I remember the sound of my shutter in that singular moment, when I’d heard it hundreds of thousands of times before?
I don’t need photos quite yet to remember her, but soon I will. Like how there was a blizzard the day of her funeral in Saskatchewan, and today the snow is all gone.
Take photos of the people you care about. Take them today. Take them on your cell phone or web cams or whatever, it doesn’t matter. I wish we had more photos of her, thousands of photos, and we don’t. They just don’t exist, and I feel like there are holes in her life now, someday becoming gaps in how we’ll recall her. How will we remember her years from now? What photo will we use to recall what her hands looked like, or the color of her eyes?
Make those memories, click those shutters. Remember.
In the end, these folks we love are all we’ve got.
13 thoughts on “xo mom.”
Thanks Buffy. We’re sorry, we love you. Hugs again from the Shandros, and thank you for reminding us all how important family is.
You will never forget her hands, you will never forget the color of her eyes.
You know that many pictures from my wedding of my dad, oh Buffy he was so, so ill. When I look at them now my heart aches missing him but somehow you captured a piece of him, mentally that was very far away at that time, because he was deeply reflective in the last few months of his life, and you also captured so many moments of his joy from that day. They are amazing and beautiful.
I am sorry you lost your mom.
Wow! I am crying! It’s amazing to me how simple and beautiful your words are and how effortlessly they match your photo. My Father passed away when I was only 4 and since he died in a house fire there are very very few photos of him. I cherish the ones I do have and I know you will do the same with this photo…
My Mother has battled Cancer and my life has very negatively been affected by Cancer and so I am biking in The Ride to Conquer Cancer. It’s a 2 day 200km bike ride through the rockies to raise funds for Cancer research and care. I will add you to the list of people to be biking for that have had to have someone taken from them by such an awful disease.
I am still crying…
Thank you, everyone. Thanks Kristina – and if you are looking for sponsors in your bike ride, please email me, I would love to sponsor you. I’m thinking about doing Run for the Cure in October, but I have an out-of-town wedding the evening before, so it might not be possible.
So sorry to hear of your loss Buffy. Thanks for the reminder on how important family is. Sometimes we just forget. My thoughts are with you 😦
I am so sorry to find out your mom has passed away. Our thoughts are with you Buffy. She was lucky to have such a wonderful, caring daughter with her. Our thoughts are with you.
Hi Buffy, I am so sorry to hear this story. I am thankful at the same time… I am definitely inspired by this- and inspired by you in general.
I’m sorry to hear about this story. You are such a talented person. Not only in photography, but also in your writing skills. You communicate so strongly. Thanks for the inspiration. I look forward to hearing each shutter click even more now.
I went through all of your post and the more I was reading, the more my eyes were burning. The words, the image … everything in this post is so human, so full of feelings, of hope and sadness.I’ll never forget your post.
As I was reading your post I felt like all the air in the room got sucked out. I’m breathless and wiping away tears. Your words, though infinitely sad and heart-wrenching, were so true and honest. This is a beautiful tribute to your mom. Thank you so much for sharing.
This really touched me. I am sorry sorry for your loss. Thank you for the reminder.
Thank you Buffy for writing this. It definitely struck a chord with with me with the trip I’m making to see my grandmother for the last time. I”m so sorry for your loss and I’m so glad you have this wonderful picture to add to I’m sure what has to be a life time of wonderful memories. xox
Hi Buffy, I just saw this! As I wipe away tears I just wanted to thank you for writing this–beautiful words Buffy, thank you.