Author’s Note: my editor wrote me earlier this morning and included a link to this story told through photos. They are photos taken by a husband of his wife as she slowly dies from cancer. “Will you write something about this for us?” he asked me, “you’ve reflected well on the power of photography before.”
I clicked on the link, looked at the pictures. And I did not know what to say. Still, when I wrote him back with my thoughts he replied “can we just publish this, Paul? It’s beautiful.” “Sure,” I responded. This is what I had written:
I am not sure I have the emotional juice to handle this in a way that does it justice. The pictures speak for themselves.
The way that they look at the beginning. The movement through the beginning of chemo. A pain-filled, uncertain face… a body consumed by cancer… a loved one whose spirit still radiates from behind tired eyes.
I am grateful for a depiction of the way that these two went through life together.
You know, we mostly desire to live and love well. We hope that our love and perseverance will plow through every obstacle that stands in our way, as if we could love pain into nonexistence. Still, there is the reality of death. On this awareness of reality, upon this fulcrum, hangs the balance between our desire to live and the necessity of saying goodbye.
We believe that when we pass, we will love again the ones we knew and lost in this life. This hope, though, does not necessarily make emptiness any easier to bear. It is a sign of grace when we feel the scar in our hearts, the place in our lives where a person used to live, and do not think only of the pain, but remember the joy of what we shared as well.
“I loved it all” she said. And maybe she still does. Maybe her words remind us how lucky we are to continue in this mortal life. Maybe when we hear them, we might also be reminded how lucky we have been to know people who have passed, who gave light to our lives, gave us hope to continue on, and inspire us still.
We will see them again one day.