Jean ~ a special session to capture a special life

Writing about this is hard but I feel that someone out there may need this.  It's made a huge impact for many (including myself) and needs to be shared.

This last year has been a challenge because I've known so many friends that have lost loved ones.  I had one client pass away only a week after our session (he had JUST been diagnosed with cancer and going for a second opinion).  I had two personal funerals the week before Christmas and many more that I was either unable to attend or were for friends of friends.  It seems that everytime I open Facebook, there is another loss or tragedy.  Too many.

I was contacted this week by the granddaughter of one of my previous clients, informing me that Jean had passed away and invited me to attend the services and proceeding wake.  I was very blessed to be able to at least drop in to give my love to the family during the reception.  We chatted in length about Jean and how precious this session was, for all of us.  I don't think I anticipated the ripple and impact it would have when I agreed to do it.  I'm sooo glad I did!

Jean was diagnosed with dementia/alzheimer's and it came time for her family to move her closer to them so they could be with her and care for her.  She was here in Texas and the family was moving her to California into an assisted living facility down the road.  A big move.

I know that when someone suffers from this disease, they tend to recollect things from their past and many times this is where they mentally want (and need) to live.  It's hard on family as our loved ones may forget who we are or forget our names yet they can pull up the craziest details from a trip they took as a child.  Moving someone, without their possessions could present a ton of challenges as it might make one feel lost, alone and scared.  Jean had been in this home for many years.  She celebrated over 50yrs of marriage, raised her babies and buried her husband here.  She had adventures and fun, challenges and love.  Everything each of us longs for.  We needed to keep these memories alive for her.

Jean also had an extensive collection of items she had gathered through her life and years of travel.  Jean's daughter contacted me, explained what was going on and that she wanted me to photograph her mom's special collections.  This isn't something I normally do but after chatting with her, I was in love with the idea.  The plan was to take photos of most of her collections and hopefully get photos of Jean as well, including one of "Jean's view" (more on that later).  We would create a book for her to look at since she couldn't take everything with her.  The only concern, we weren't sure she would be ok with us doing this.  I mean who would?!?  You're getting moved out of your home, some stranger is coming in and taking photos of all the things you have to leave behind.  A total invasion of space and a reminder of the physical and mental struggle you're going through.  I don't know how I would feel about this if I were in Jean's position.

I arrived, praying for grace and wisdom and God did His thing!  Not only was Jean a willing participant, she enjoyed it and even gave me instructions on what to photograph!  I got to take photos of her in her natural element, including doing her favorite activity, crossword puzzles.  She insisted on having all her "stuff" beside her as that is how she really is and I got to hear the amazing story of her favorite quilt, one given to her when she retired from teaching.  We got some precious photos of her with her pup, Baby Doll (of which I heard had to put down right after Jean passed) and most important, I got "Jean's view".

She had a huge picture window that overlooked the golf course.  She would always sit and stare out the window, waving to neighbors as they passed by.  This view was the main reason she had not been willing to move in the past.  This was the most important shot I needed to get.  While I got photos of her view, I thought about the fact that at this time of year (winter) wouldn't truly represent what she normally sees.  That wasn't ok.  She needed HER view.  The one she would recognize most.  The one that was green, vibrant and full of life.

I offered to come back in spring, after all the trees were in full bloom and the grass was green to get another shot.  The neighbor was willing to let me have access so I did.  We created a LARGE wall covering for her room and she LOVED it!  I've been told numerous times that her book and that "view" were her source of joy, everyday, until she passed.

What an honor to be able to do this for Jean and her family.  I can't even really come up with the words to express how blessed and grateful I am that her daughter contacted me and that in some small way, I was able to help this sweet family with such a challenging event.  I've decided that I definitely want to do this for my mother when she gets older and has to scale back and someone had better do it for me too!

Jean, I adore you.  You were so much fun to work with.  May the angels celebrate with you and may you look down with love on those of us still traveling through this life.

~ Jen

To see more of this special session, you can view the video below.

His eye is on the sparrow and I know He is watching over me.   ♥   Matthew 10:29-31

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