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Take the photo and GET IN THE PHOTO!

When I was born I held a starring role in my family. I was my parents first child, I was the first grandchild on both sides of the family and the one who made many an aunt or uncle. My Papa has ALWAYS had a camera and he was always taking photos. Photos of every family gathering. So it was no surprise when I wanted a camera and also started taking photos of every family gathering. As I got older and moved away, photos of me and my family members were cherished. Living 7 hours away from them made me miss them so much and those photos were helpful. Every time you go to Nana & Papa's house you go and pick out one of his 20 something photo albums and comb through the photos. Everyone is in those albums.

In February my Aunt Lisa, my godmother, got sick and was in the hospital. She entered the hospital on February 11th if I remember correctly, and she passed away on the 27th at the age of 55. Just 20 days after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was fine before this. Once she was admitted we realized how bad it was. It had spread and it wasn't good. Being away from my family at that time was extremely difficult. My cousins (her boys) and I are close. My entire family is so close. My other Aunt had to tell me I had to choose. Did I want to see her before she passed or be home with the family for the funeral.

I chose to go home for the funeral because I knew she was surrounded with our family and there was nothing I could do at that time.

My family all got together in the days after Aunt Lisa passed to go through photos and make photo boards for the funeral home. I couldn't be home for this either but my family came to me and wanted all the photos I made them take.

Since becoming a professional photographer, I've made my family get together for a couple photo sessions. All of us grandkids, their parents and our grandparents. Thinking that I want all these photos for someday when my Grandparents are no longer with us. I wanted to remember these moments even though we're all grown up. So I gave them everything I had. Then my sister starts sending me photos of all these other photos she's seeing at this gathering. Some other family members had. And I couldn't help but smile.

The boards my family put together were amazing. There was like 8 different boards of just photos! And my amazing Dad made a slideshow to a song I shared that reminded me of her.

Walking around the funeral home and looking at all these photos, it was clear Aunt Lisa embraced every moment of her life and always got in the photo. She didn't care. She lived in the moment. She smiled and put her arms around you or put her beer in the air and we took the photo. Looking at all those photos, you realize how much fun she had. We had so many photos to look at and share with each other and laugh at the memories.

My Aunt Lisa supported me in so many ways in my life. I looked up to her when I was younger and went to college to be like her. She taught me how to balance a check book, she taught me how to pay my bills and budget, she bought my wedding dress from my previous marriage, she drove to Cincinnati for my bridal shower, she always asked me to take photos of her family, she told me she was proud of me every chance she got. She sent me messages to just say she was thinking of me. She was there when I needed to talk to someone about getting divorced, when I needed someone who could think logically and logistically and not just emotionally. She was my go to person for a lot of things.

So I want you all to take time to take the photo, get photos taken, AND BE IN THE PHOTOS! When you leave this earth and you have loved ones here mourning you they will NEED those photos. Those photos may end up being the one thing that helps them grieve. I look at this photo I took of her everyday since she has passed.

Take those messy hair no makeup photos. Make the silly faces with your kids. It doesn't have to be professional. Use your phone and take the selfie! These moments will be the most loved!

for example, I hate this photo of me but so glad to have this photo of me, my cousin Leah and Aunt Lisa

(PS...I'm not a huge fan of myself in this picture but I'm so glad we took it)

This also leads me to remind you to print your photos. Don't just keep them online. Print them. Make photo books, Make old school albums. Whatever, but print them! Share them.

Printing your photos is a great way to get the kids and someday grandkids to come over and sit with you. I know this because, like I said, it's what we all do when we visit with Nana & Papa. We spend time with them listening to them tell us about the photos. It's good for them and us.

I'm thankful that Papa has passed on this love to me. It's something I don't take lightly and never will. Life is a gift we all need to treasure and spend as much time with the ones we love.

Telling them we love them and miss them and hugging them a little longer.

And now that I'm crying I'll end this by saying how much I miss her every day. There's a hole in my heart now but I'm going to keep on doing what I love and I'm going to make her proud every single day for the rest of my life. As Aunt LIsa wrote in my sister's wedding guest book "Life Large and Laugh Often!"

I love you Aunt Lisa <3

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