Lessons in Loss

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This year has been marked by loss for both Lindy-Ann and myself. As we all struggle to process our way through these difficult times and cope with our own temporariness, I have been overwhelmed with life lessons. Things I have taken away from the lives of those we have lost, watching the people around me process through their grief, and best of all seeing how good truly can come from tragedy and loss.

From a grandfather who is finally at rest after a period of struggling, I learned that it truly is important to invest in your family to form loving and lasting connections that withstand distance and time. To not allow one day to pass without your people knowing you truly love them and they are worthy.  We were never meant to live isolated, and the technology of today can be harnessed to keep families connected regardless of distance.

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From a beloved uncle, as you may have read, I learned that the way you live matters and impacts people more than you will ever know. Leaving a legacy of love and faith with your family and friends will help them heal and grow through the pain of the loss of you.

Then there is the tragedy of a young mother sacrificing her life for her child. Last September, Arlene blew into our community like a warm, floral scented, tropical breeze. Everyone who met her says the same thing: she was was full of life. She lived and loved vibrantly and with passion. Her kind heart and her willingness to be vulnerable and open drew people to her and she was able to share her faith and passions with them.

Our paths were weaved through volunteering at school, Bible Study and church. I also had the honor of capturing her family’s love last fall in their first ever family photo session. It was a fun seaside session with laughter, cuddles, and jumping for joy.

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For the second time this year I was reminded that my job goes beyond just a nice picture on a wall, it captures a moment in family’s life to be treasured, especially in loss.

Which leads me to the first thing I learned from Arlene:

1. Capture the moments with you in it: as I worked on the slideshow for her memorial service I was thankful for two things: the accessibility of Facebook and the way Arlene captured her life. Even though the majority of them were iPhone photos and selfies, she had documented her life and the people she loved. It will be a comfort to her family, especially her children as they grow. It has challenged me to pass my camera off a little more and care a little less about how I look in photos for the sake of my boys. We photogs need to be intentional about being in the photos, not just taking them.

2. Let your light shine: Arlene’s light shone brightly through her smile and her positive attitude; and she shared that with those she loved. The legacy she is leaving her children is one of faith, love, kindness, and living life to the fullest. At the memorial service and in the past few days, everyone agrees that Arlene had a special light about her and, I can tell you, it was supernatural. We all need to let our lights shine brightly and spread that love to others.

3. Don’t procrastinate life: In his speech at the memorial service, Arlene’s husband Joseph challenged us with two things: 1) have the tough conversation with your significant other about your final wishes and 2) intentionally schedule and spend quality time with your loved ones. He reminded us that tomorrow is not guaranteed – we can’t push things this important off to later date that may never come.

Now what? 

How do you want to be remembered? What do you want your family, friends, and community to say about you? It may sound morbid, but if we are truly meant to fight the good fight, and finish the race well, then the day to day does mean something. Your daily choices make up your life and build the legacy you will leave behind.

My hope is, that at my memorial party (which will be a pub filled with revelry and good beer – just saying), the attendees will say I lived boldy, loved deeply, laughed often, gave good hugs, and was His hands and feet. I want to leave my boys with a legacy of faith and truth, the power of prayer, and importance of a good belly laugh. In the midst of the sadness of loss, there has to be laughter in the memories of what has passed and hope in what is to come.

with love,

kdg

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Loss & Legacy

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This week my family suffered the loss of a beloved uncle in a tragic accident. The grief and feelings come in waves. Powerful and crushing and at the same time cathartic and cleansing. The hardest thing is not being able to be there with our family. To tell stories, hear the memories, give hugs, so this is how I will share my heart. This is to honor a man that loved fiercely and did everything with passion.

Uncle John was a bear of a man that would stomp into Grandma and Grandpa’s house with the screen door slamming behind him and a smile that said he was happy to see us come get your hug! He gave bone cracking hugs and good advice. He had the heart of a Scottish highlander in fields of Virginia. He was a great story teller, a hard worker, an inspiring teacher, at talented musician, a soldier, a proud father of four miracles, loving husband to an amazing woman, a believer, and rock to lean on. He was not perfect we all know that, but even those moments were redeemed by the way he loved his family, all of us.

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He was one of the first members of the family to welcome me into the clan and even wore a kilt at our wedding. He loved my husband like more than a nephew, he cuddled his great nephews tenderly as babies and played with them as little men, and always encouraged us to keep adventuring and to grow in faith.

A couple years ago we had the pleasure of spending a weekend with my mother-in-law, grandma and grandpa, and Uncle John and his family at Cove Point Lighthouse. It was a memorable weekend of bonding and being together as a family. That weekend is even more cherished now as one of our last adventures with him.

While we were there Aunt Laura and I had schemes to take their family photos, since they hadn’t had never had them done. I was honored of course and the session worked out perfectly, the colors the lighthouse, the beach, the love captured…all of it.

Those photos were my gift to their family and now they will help our cousins remember their father.

When my MIL called to check on me (I know she is the one that lost her brother!) she told me that my gift of photography was special and meaningful. She shared that one of the girls has been carrying my photos of her family in her hand all week, and that even though I can’t be with them my spirit will be there at the memorial through those images. That was a comfort and an overwhelming revelation.

What you do matters. The legacy you leave behind matters. How you love others matters.

Uncle John loved his family fiercely, this is the legacy he leaves behind, love. I’m so thankful to have felt that love and to have been there to capture it forever for his family.

With Love,

kdg

“We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining – they just shine.”  –Dwight L. Moody

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