Fellow New England transplants Nichole and Brian first contacted me last spring via Red Thread Sessions, a wonderful organization that connects new adoptive families with local professional photographers. As soon as we met (and I heard that Rhode Island accent) I felt like I already knew them. They were so familiar! It was like being home. Their beautiful (at the time) one-year-old daughter Ava had recently come home from China and I was flooded with memories of bringing my own adoptive daughter home six years before. We had a wonderful session with glorious light in a beautiful park filled with lush greenery.
Well it turns out that the now two-year-old Ava is quite a fan of the beach. No park this year. Instead, we decided to do the family session out at Hannah Park this time. We arrived about 75 minutes before sunset and watched Ava play with the sand and look for shells. About an hour later, that glorious light that lasts about 15 minutes cascaded over the sand dunes and I was in heaven. Ava forgot I was there and was having quite the time dancing, laughing, curtsying and spinning. I couldn’t shoot fast enough. It was perfection. My only regret is that I have to wait another year before out next session, but one I will look forward to with much joy.
Until then, enjoy the beautiful Ava and her parents Nichole and Brian.
There are few times in life when you feel like you are standing on holy ground. For me, one of those times was this past Saturday. You’ve heard of Six Degrees of Separation, right? Well, for me it was four degrees involving four adoptive moms from PA, MN, TX and FL, all friends of friends on Facebook. Last Wednesday night I received a message from my friend in PA asking if I would be willing to take some photographs of a little girl in the Jacksonville area who is in desperate need of a new heart.
Last week, this little girl told her parents she wanted to leave the hospital and come home to die surrounded by the family she has come to love these past 2.5 years. The young girl is Rachel Hope and she lives in a strength and faith that most people will never know. She spent her first 7.5 years living in an orphanage in China, hoping against hope that she would be adopted. This hope was against everything she was told. Being born with only half a heart, her caretakers told her no one would ever want her. And yet, in her heart she longed for a family of her own… to have brothers and sisters… and she never gave up hope.
She lives a life full of joy and faith and the chaos that come with having three sisters within three years of age. Her mom’s request was a small one, to have some final photographs of Rachel before she dies, that show who she is… beyond the hospital bed and the tubes, beyond the blue lips and blue fingers.
I have to say that while there was never a hesitation that I was called to do this, I was a little nervous about how I would react when meeting Rachel. She is almost the same age and size as my own daughter, who was also adopted from China. However, any bit of fear vanished upon seeing her. This child is determined to live to the fullest whatever life she has left . She is spunky and full of personality. Not one complaint. I was in awe.
We were originally going to go to a beautiful inn not far from their house but as soon as I walked in the home, I was overcome by the warmth. Not only of light. Of spirit as well. LIke I said, I felt like I was on holy ground. Now, I am not talking about angels and organ music. To the contrary, the house was full of noise, and laughter. Doors opening and slamming shut. Girls chasing each other and playing spy games. It was a ordinary house. And yet, so not ordinary. All rolled up in one.
I sat down with Rachel and showed her how my camera worked. How the lenses were used for different settings. We chatted for a bit and then I just started photographing her . Folks, this girl is definitely NOT camera shy. She had me cracking up and so enjoying myself that I completely forgot about the PICC line in her arm.
We moved from the warm light of the living room to the soft light of the back porch, where we were joined by Summer, the retriever. Laughing and loving in the beautiful light. I was in heaven.
After about ten minutes, like any ten year old, she was ready to be done with the pictures and join her sisters outside. And so we finished up … her running out the front door and jumping on her bike; me sitting in awe of the glimpse of holiness.
Rachel’s time here on earth is short if a new heart is not found very soon. Please share this post. While Rachel continues to live each day the fullest with the half heart that she has right now, perhaps somewhere, somehow a heart will become available. Perhaps the heart is just six degrees away. After all, her middle name is hope. And hope remains.
To learn more about Rachel, read this beautiful post written by her mom Lori.
Click * here *
Janice and Ray are such a warm and genuine couple. We first met at Panera’s and before dinner was over, I felt like I had known them for years. Ray is a navy man and is a wonderful photographer. Janice is a fellow Yankee transplant. She is also a two-time cancer survivor whose love for life is contagious. They are so stinkin’ cute together and had me smiling for most of the session. I am beyond excited to be shooting their wedding in August at Everbank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Until then, Enjoy!
I feel all kinds of connected to this family.
The mom was a former student at the high school at which I teach.
And HER mother just retired from the same high school.
Scariest part? The oldest son is now in high school.
I, on the other hand, remain as young as ever!