While Jen was in treatment many people told me they didn't know what to say to us so they just kept silent. The thing is, you don't have to know what to say. Just sitting next to a loved one and holding her or his hand is more powerful than you can imagine. Don't run away, be there.
This year is 8 years since my beautiful mama was diagnosed with breast cancer. I Love her so much.
Facing breast cancer often brings feelings of being different from everyone else. Jen and I knew that this was difficult for our loved ones too, but we needed their support and Love. You don't have to know the right thing to say...I don't know if there is a "right" thing. What I do know is how much it helped Jen and me when we received a text message saying, "I Love you," or when someone sent dinner after a day of chemotherapy, or when a someone came to visit us.
Just don't stay away because you are scared or don't know what to say.
Last night after celebrating their birthdays my mom was looking at photographs from my parent's trip to Italy in 1991. She asked my dad if he remembered the names of the people in one of the photos. Dad responded with names, paused, then said, "They were good to us." Mom agreed.
I felt like they were passing on 86 & 85 years worth of how to live - "Be good to each other."
Sunday I was photographing a concert when a young woman who recognized the tatto that runs along my collarbone introduced herself. She told me she knew about Jen and me and has been folllowing our story. She then shared a challenge she is facing and that our story inspires her to not give up.
This is one of the biggest reasons why I keep posting to this page. I always admired how Jen turned difficult experiences into something positive that helped others. That's how I want to live my life.
Another lesson from Jen.
We had been in the hospital for 2 weeks when I made this portrait. I remember thinking, "Jen looks more beautiful every day."
Before I met Jen I wasn't sure if I wanted to be a dad. That all changed as I got to know Jen. I knew I wanted to have a family because Jen would be the mom.
I know it broke Jen's heart to not get this chance.
I'm listening to music and it feels better than ever before, everything feels is way. I wonder if this is Jen inside of me...like I no longer need to think, she is just a part of everything I do.
In October of 2006 I moved to New York with an engagement ring burning a hole in my pocket. On the night I arrived Jen and I had dinner at this restaurant. After we finished eating I got down on one knee and asked Jen to marry me. Jen yelled "SHUT UP!!!!!!" I remember thinking, "I sold everything I own except for my cats and a few cameras...what does shut up mean??"
After what felt like forever Jen put her finger out and I could breathe again.
Jen and me, 9/27/2011
Last night I reread a message recently sent to me by a friend of one of my brothers. He told me that he and his wife had an argument and afterwards he retreated to his space. He was online and saw our story "and in that moment, I wiped the tears away, got up and went into the bedroom where my wife was asleep and just held her and sobbed and felt like the luckiest guy on the planet."
I know Jennifer would love this and I'm so thankful that he shared. These kind of messages give me strength to keep going when I start feeling like I'm losing my grip.
So, everyone hug your wife, husband, girlfriend or boyfriend...just don't hang on to the dumb stuff. Life is too short, precious and fragile.
Here is this week's portrait. I've been dreaming about Jen a lot lately. When I wake up I feel like she is still here...then the dream fades and I find myself fighting to hold on.
Makes for a confusing start to the day.
This is Isabella Santos, one of the sweetest souls I've ever known. Isabella was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma at the age of 2 and sadly she passed last June. Jen and I were fortunate to meet Ib and her family and we all became close friends. Like Jen, Isabella had the gift of seeing life as half full.
The Santos family is committed "to fight Isabella’s fight in her honor and for all children who are fighting Neuroblastoma." In 2009, the Isabella Santos Foundation (ISF) was established through Isabella’s parents to raise awareness and research funds for Neuroblastoma. I admire the courage, strength and love it takes for this family to honor Isabella and make a difference for the rest of us.
Please take a look at the website for The Isabella Santos Foundation and if you are moved to do so, please share.
Jen in bed, May 2011
It's been a year and 4 months since Jen passed and Friday night I realized I've been sleeping on her side of the bed the whole time.
Jen looked so hot without hair! I remember teasing her about how lucky she was to have such a great shape to her head.
As always, Jen's eyes burned right through the lens and into my soul.
Check back next Tuesday for another portrait.