This past weekend I spent in Oregon. Ironically almost every year, besides last, I have been in Portland for work at the end of March, and this year it resumed.
This year was a little different. I was honored to photograph a friend from high school marry the most wonderful woman in the most beautiful location. The morning of this wedding however, I also had to virtually watch the burial and service of my close cousin [who is more like my brother]. The emotions of that day were a lot. Even virtually the impact of just turning on the screen and seeing his face in a frame in front of his casket, took my breath away.
There are a lot of emotions I could talk about during this service. The fact I was aching for my grandparents, the gut-stabbing feeling I had when looking at my baby cousin hold his fiance, mom and dad in front of the casket, the lack of breath I could hold in when thinking about the absence of someone I adore, or the sense of sadness, yet pride, I had when a song I had covered with my guitar came over on the speaker prior to the service, giving people a sense that I was present physically when I couldn’t be. I find myself even reminiscing about my cousin, Bry, making a speech so fluidly, so strong, with so many sad emotions but even more grateful and appreciative ones of both time he had received with j and his gratitude towards his parents. Lastly, I have overflowing emotions for my mom who impressed me with her ability to sing during such a hard time, but I get that also, artistry really turns on and blocks off emotions when we hone in on what we are doing – but still – incredibly tough.
Last May I photographed my cousin and his family and did an ‘end of life’ type of shoot. When you are in the zone of doing the absolute best you can for those you love, you block out emotion or human struggle. It wasn’t until the moment I put my camera down that the emotions overcame me – and I’m assuming it was similar for her singing, as well.
I could absolutely go into further detail about these emotions – but I want to really focus on the light in my life. The light is a vague term that typically stands in for one thing – but in this case – its many.
About a week and a half ago, I felt sad and helpless. I just made a story about J [prior to his passing] asking people to help me raise money for my aunt and uncle. They have a gofundme for J, but when they see that money I know they think ‘medical bills.’
Think about the American healthcare system and then think about: consultation, brain surgery, 4 weeks in the hospital dealing with coma; aftercare, transfer to another hospital, MRI’S, end of life care -> hospice, ER, physical therapy, occupational therapy, all different types of therapy, more MRI’S, cancer treatment, radiation, another round of end of life care as well as experimental treatments ranging from 5,000-10,000 dollars, and funeral expenses…. it’s all a lot. So when they see this bigger [but not even a drop in the bucket] number for a gofundme, it feels reserved for that. This isn’t even hitting on the emotional care that should be invested in after this years experience.
So I started my little own fundraiser to give to them personally to separate those daunting bills from every day needs, bills, or leisure costs. I expected to raise maybe 500 dollars and double it for them.
The first light: people.
I am the first to tell you that people let me down often. I don’t trust many people – I have a tendency to hate people as a whole, just no one in particular [lol]. When I tell you that people completely brought me to a crying situation multiple times over the course of the last week and a half, I am being fully honest. The generosity of not only my friends and family, but my clients and acquaintances really blew me away. Within a day and a half I had raised 1500 dollars. I added to that amount and then sent my family a personal check within probably 5 days. By the time they actually got it, I was still acquiring donations which have been [now] up to 2120 [in total] and the remainder of that amount will be going into their gofundme. I honestly cannot believe how kind people are in times of struggle and sadness. Whether it was 5, 25 or 100 dollars – it all added up and it all honestly just showed me what beautiful of a community I have around me.
The amount of people that donated didn’t just show me how moved people were from Jason and my family, but also the amount of people that genuinely cared for me – and wow.
The second light: perspective.
I’ve always been one to voice my compliments and opinions [positive ones] of others. In my job, personal life, and even in my teaching career, I am openly vocal about how much people matter to me. Maybe it’s because I was severely bullied when I was young, maybe it was because of the times someone said something small and kind to me that shaped up the entire rest of my day, but because of all of these instances I have found it to be very important to voice my heart and thoughts.
Losing J really just amplified this for me. I am much more vocal with the ‘i love you’s’ to my grandparents, parents, family and friends. When we are younger we were told to not just ‘say it to anyone because it’s for someone special,’ but honestly that is bullshit. I have different types of love and they are reserved for all people in my life. I love you and I care about you are interchangeable for me.
Losing this person has been a tremendous ache on my heart but reminded me that life is short, this will end, and spending the time on what we love is important.
This is also where I try to remind myself that my words and actions are far more weight bearing than my weight itself. Depression does strange things to my body. When I am depressed I want to comfort eat but then I am filled with complete guilt, shame, and am angry at doing so with typically goals on starvation for the following weeks if I have the ‘control’. However anxiety makes me sick to my stomach. So if I am in a fued with someone, its opposite and I just can’t eat at all. Going through all of these depressed emotions amplified and being in vegan-junk-food-available Portland was a ROUGH time for me and my guilt – but I did have to keep reminding myself that it was okay to eat food I enjoyed, it was okay if I gained a few pounds over the weekend and a reminder that this was temporary – a weekend wouldn’t ‘ruin’ my body – and the idea of life and enjoying it is far more important than an aesthetic. [Reminder this is an eating disorder recovery blog so this is something I do have to touch on]
Any ways – this weekend was beautiful and peaceful in the sense of get-away and location, it was hard in the sense of losing someone and being reminded that absence during family events will be louder than the voices filling the room, and also overwhelming in the acknowledgement of the wonderful and selfless souls that fill up the space around me.
If you were someone who messaged me, donated, or voiced your love and care – thank you. You are the light in many lives; including my own.