I have been remiss in my blogging and photography duties, and I feel it. I took some time to reflect on my priorities last night, there are no photos, just thoughts, just words.
I have always had a love for taking pictures and photography. In May of 2011, I decided to start a Project 365 and surprised myself by finishing it in May of 2012. I faithfully took a picture every day, whether it was of my cat, or a landscape photo at the local refuge I frequent. In those 365 days, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I have a knack for landscape photography and I love wildlife and the great outdoors. I learned that I would be even better with different equipment, if I ever have the money to buy it. I am not in a hurry in that aspect. I also learned a lot about my camera, and that I have a gift and can take a pretty mean picture if the stars are aligned.
During that time, on a personal level, I went through a difficult period and lost a good friend. Not by death, by choice. But it wasn’t my choice. I learned friendship means more to some than others. I learned addiction causes harm to those who have it, and those around it. I learned that I deserve to be treated with respect, and I learned that it was his loss. Dealing with that was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life. But I did it. I moved on. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I think I took some of my best photos during my healing process. Photography was huge for me, and I used it as therapy, and it worked. I brought my camera with me wherever I went. I spent lunch hours driving around looking for “the shot” or I would grab a sandwich and head down to the river to see what I could scare up.
Also during this time, my elderly mother’s health was ailing. She had been diagnosed with COPD and congestive heart failure many years ago. Homebound on oxygen and in a wheel chair, she did not have a good quality of life. After my brother passed away in 2005, I became one of her main caregivers along with my dad. They lived on the bottom floor of my apartment building, which was great. They were close and I could help them as needed. She always enjoyed looking at my photos. Her favorite were my eagles and flowers.
After my Project 365, I became busy with other things. I had a very unusually busy summer; fall came and I did a lot of portrait photography to make some extra money on the side. I tried a 52-week challenge, but barely made it 8 weeks. I was no longer bringing my camera everywhere. In fact, it grew dusty. I rarely made it to my peaceful place at the refuge, and in fact only made it there a ½ dozen times. In the previous year it was about a ½ dozen times in a month. Many times I would drive by a barn, see a tree or a “Kodak” moment in general, and want to pull over as I had in the past, but didn’t have my camera. I started to miss it. I got out a couple times to focus on photography, but it wasn’t the same.
The snow came and it was beautiful, but I just “didn’t have time”. The busy holidays came, and I spent a lot of weekends helping my mother do her holiday baking and shopping. On December 23, she developed a nasty cough. We “cancelled” Christmas dinner with family, as she was deteriorating. On December 29, I called the paramedics. By the time she got to the hospital she was barely breathing and borderline comatose. She was put on a respirator and there we sat. She would never have wanted to be kept alive by any machines so on Thursday, January 3, my sister and I made the decision to take her off the respirator, and see what happens. She passed away at 5:55 pm surrounded by all of us.
So now it becomes difficult for my dad, who is 82, has a bit of memory loss and has known nothing except taking care of her for the past 15 years. On top of everything else, he took a spill Friday night and dislocated his shoulder. We had her memorial service Monday, my sister went back home 2-1/2 hours away yesterday, my daughter and I went back to school and work today. Back to life. Back to normalcy. As normal as it is going to get.
I keep telling myself she isn’t suffering, she is at peace, she is in a better place. It doesn’t make it easier. Losing my mother has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I pride myself on being a strong person. I have loved and I have lost. Several times over, in fact. I am a single mom, working full time and raising a beautiful, wonderful teenaged daughter. It’s hard. It’s damn hard. But we keep on keepin’ on. I have a great support system with my family and friends. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And all those cliché’s you read. They all fit. I have put my life on hold for some time now. She lived her life. I have to move on with mine.
As I dropped my sidekick off at school yesterday morning, I noticed the sunrise. For the first time in a long time. A bright pink and orange haze, and the clouds around it looked like marshmallows melted together. It was beautiful. I didn’t have my phone on me to take a picture. But at that moment, I knew. I knew that I had to go on with my photography. Not sure if she was trying to tell me that, but I know she would’ve wanted me to. And I know just like my last hurdle, it will be my therapy and comfort.
I have to do something. Whether I do another Project 365, a 52-week challenge or just dust my camera off and get out more, I will be taking more photos.
When one life ends, another begins….