A letter to my dad

Photographer with camera shooting the sky

Dear Dad,

It has been just over a month since you died, and through this time, my grief has taken so many forms, as has my healing.  I have taken so much from looking through old photos of you, of us.  We have all had so much joy looking at the photos you took of us as children.  I can't remember you not having your camera when we were young.  You were always there, documenting, capturing the moments that matter most.  For in the end, the photos of the seemingly mundane moments depict us exactly as we are, authentically living our lives.  Here is one of my favourite photos that you took of me in our countless albums.

Young redheaded girl, standing at a car

Photo by Stephen O'Brien, circa 1983

When my children were born, in the age of digital photography, you continued to take photos each time we saw you.  We came to learn shortly after that that you had encountered another cancer, and then another a couple of years after. As your body grew tired and weak, you continued to document.  We received as gifts cds and later usb sticks full of files of photographs of our children. I knew that your life in this form was ending when you no longer photographed your sunsets, when you became too tired to hold your camera.  But, I knew you were still documenting it all in your mind and heart.

A week after you died, we celebrated your life with a gathering and we had then planned to plant a tree together.  I didn't want to bring my camera.  In fact, I hadn't really picked up my camera for last two months of your illness.  I was exhausted, and not really feeling much joy at all.  But that morning, my youngest child randomly walked to my camera cabinet, opened the door, and grabbed my bag.  "Here's your camera, Mommy," he stated, as though you had sent him to get it for me, reminding me to document the day.

And so I did, Dad.  I documented the carrying of your tree, the earth-stained hands, the tears, and the laughter, as the afternoon sun peeked through the clouds.  I felt so happy to capture these photos, knowing you were right there with me.  I cried as I edited them this week.  Through this cathartic exercise, I also felt a newfound excitement to shoot, to capture clients' moments this year, as well as our own.

I am inspired to reflect more on the true gift of photographs, but for now, here's to you, Dad.  They say no one will ever love you as deeply as a parent.  I am grateful to know that love, and recognize that I am incredibly lucky.  Thank you for the gift of your pictures, and may we aspire to continue this gift. I vow that I will.

With my heart, my love, and my photos,


As we celebrated your life, we planted a tree…

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