Initially, I didn’t even bring my camera to the hospital. I was hesitant. My mother hesitated too. My dad had also always been intensely private and I didn’t want to cross any boundaries. But we decided to bring the camera. I still can’t believe how open my dad was about this. I remember standing behind him while he trimmed his beard in front of a mirror. A simple act he refused to give up in his last days. I must have taken 100 photos. I was nervous throughout that 5 minutes. I thought at any moment he would look at me, and say “really? This moment?” He didn’t bat an eye.
Having those images now means so much to me. His grandkids will never really get the chance to know him, but at least they’ll know he cared. He may not look like how I want to remember him in some of the photos, but at least I remember how I felt about him in those moments. They provide me with an opportunity to sit with the grief I feel in losing him, to flow with life’s ebbs and eddies, to find riches in the raw and to feel the beauty in experiencing all life has to offer.
Since losing my dad I’ve continued to use the camera to understand and study grief. Throughout this process, families have invited me bedside during their most intimate moments to document the experience the way I did for my family. If you know someone whose family may appreciate imagery during this process, please have them contact me.
See the full series in the Documentary section of my website, under Meeting Mortality.