It is with a heavy heart that I write this post. When I was in high school back in 2002-2003 time, I met a boy by the name of Andrew Benedict. He dated a friend of mine, so I got to know him more that way. Back then, he was known as Benny. He was a go-getter. Said what was on his mind. Fun to be around. And most definitely, full of life.
Fast forward about 7 years. Andrew’s step-mom Jaymie hired me to do Benedict family photos- it was a big group. And we had such a great time. We did individuals of each family grouping, as well as of each child, and of course Jaymie and her husband Dave (Andrew’s dad). This was the first time I had seen and connected with Andrew again in all those years. We chatted a little, reconnected on Facebook, and that was that. Soon after the session- and I mean “didn’t even have them edited yet” soon- Andrew was in a horrific car crash late one night. It was around 3 weeks after the session. He was life-flighted to St. V’s and it didn’t look good. After a long, LONG fight, he finally stabalized, but he was paralyzed from the neck down (and was to this day). He continued to work hard, regardless. The family didn’t lose hope. Everyone prayed that some day, Drew would be able to walk again. As time went by, he got better and better, but never regained his feeling or ability to walk or move. His family was there for him constantly, visiting, laughing, taking pictures, just hanging out like old times. As far as all of his friends knew, he was doing just fine (considering).
This year, for the second year, I donated a gift certificate to the annual golf benefit they held in his honor. With these fundraisers, they would be able to help with medical expenses, buy things like a handicap accessible van, etc. I donated a full session with CD to this year’s benefit. Come to find out, a family member won it! She messaged me in mid-June to set up a cousin’s session. Their group of family was SUPER super close. These cousins called themselves the “Dirty Dozen.” We chatted back and forth about dates, but it was so last minute that it was hard for everyone to coordinate something easily, so we continued working on it. Then the communication stopped. Got busy, couldn’t work out dates with everyone on their end, who knows. But after I last offered up a few dates, I didn’t hear back. Didn’t think much of it. Business was demanding and I had to keep going with what was on my plate. I figured she would get back to me when she could.
This morning, we received very unexpected news that Andrew had passed away. A blood clot caused an unexpected heart attack, and he went home to God. He was my age. I felt so many things. Shock. Ill. Sad. Heartbroken. and most of all, guilt.
I felt guilty. I FEEL guilty. I felt like it was my fault that I wasn’t more available for booking their session, even if it was last minute. I felt like I should have just known. Like I should have cancelled something else, attendance to a family gathering planned with my own family, to squeeze it in. I felt like it was my fault that they would never have that recent set of professional photos with him before he passed away. Like the ones I took 2 year ago before the accident weren’t enough.
Did anyone in the family make me feel this way? ABSOLUTELY NOT. No no no. But it’s in my human nature to wonder if I could have done something different. It’s a fight with myself. What if I WOULD have cancelled something with my family during the very little free time I had between gigs- what if 3 weeks later it would have been someone in MY family? And instead of spending that last time with them, I was out shooting someone else’s family? It’s a catch 22. You can’t be everything to everyone And it’s not your fault those images didn’t get taken. It’s not. I will keep telling myself this until I believe it. But it still hurts. To think you could have given them that last something to hang on to- but didn’t.
The point is, you can never count on tomorrow. Don’t selfishly put off those family pictures for 6 more months because you “want to lose another 50 lbs.” Your spouse may not be here next week. Or maybe you won’t. We lose people we love every day to unexpected reasons. You don’t have to live every day like it’s your last- I find this saying cliche and a bit outdated. But you do need to realize that there are bigger things to worry about than a few extra pounds. That your children, your parents, your siblings..or your cousins- love you exactly for who you are. And they WANT images to remember you by. Dress for your figure. And a knowledgeable photographer will be able to pose you in flattering ways as well. And if all else fails, ask your photographer if they are able to “take away a few pounds” in Photoshop, for an extra fee. Now I won’t condone this practice on a regular basis, but if it’s a matter of doing them now, or doing them a year from now, then who cares, if the client requested it? (And I do mean a “few” pounds, not 50. You still need to look like who you really are.)
I saw a saying posted somewhere but it didn’t have an author- something along the lines of: What if tomorrow you woke up only with the blessings that you thanked God for today?
PLEASE don’t say you are sorry for my loss. While I think the world as a whole has suffered a loss as this amazing man went home to God, I would like you to please direct all your prayers and condolences to the family. I always feel guilty when posting about something like this and people saying “sorry for your loss.” Because what I’m feeling, is NOWHERE near what the family is feeling. I am so sorry for THEIR loss. Truly.
Hugs and prayers to all. Here are a few images from that family session in 2010. And as a few tears have finally wriggled loose and stream down my face, I can say confidently to everyone that loved him, that he is now completely free in heaven. He is walking again. Running. No more wheelchair, no more pain, no more breathing tubes, none of that. He is free.