Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Letting Go and Going On

A convergence of small events conspired to give me the nerve to let go and and go on.  

My friend, Candice, shared a link for the Farm Series photographs by Natalie Faye, a project done with love and tenderness. And she wrote these words of advice to me . . . taking photos of your mother and the house you grew up in would be the best present you could give yourself . . . and her.  If I could do it all over again, I would have.  I wouldn't have waited until the house was empty (Frank took those pictures and they are stark and sad, I can barely look at them) . . . or waited too late (my house was torn down).  

Another friend, Cheryl, wrote a beautiful post to wish her mother a Happy Birthday. You would think that after fourteen years of her being gone that I would be over the longing of wanting to see her one more time, to spend one more day with her and tell her all the things that I miss now that she is gone . . . and also to tell her that I better understand now her struggles and hardships.

In Poems Without Words, Rebecca Lily shared an insight. I had the realization that my favorite pictures were made in a moment when my heart broke.

And thanks to the suggestion of several photographer friends, I'm reading a new book, The Visual Toolbox by David Duchemin. The very first chapter contains only a few pages but a powerful message. Perfect photographs are overrated. The images that will always captivate others, and mean the most to you, are the ones made in that tension of learning to express your vision. 

Relationships and connections mean the most to me, and I will try to express my vision.

On Monday mornings, I take Mama to the thrift shop run by the Methodist Church in her town. Monday is her favorite day to visit the thrift shop because Miss Margaret volunteers on that day. These two greet each other with genuine affection. Miss Margaret always kisses Mama and me, too. She waits till Mama is busy shopping, and discretely asks me, how's she doing? There is no easy answer to this question, but I always answer the same, better now that's she's had a hug from you.

This is the bedroom Mama moved into after Daddy died. That's been 17 years ago now. She couldn't stand to sleep in the bedroom they'd shared for 40 years. This is the bedroom, on the front of the house, that used to be mine when I lived at home. Even as dementia whittles away at Mama's memory, she still makes the bed everyday and folds her nightgown neatly at the foot of the bed.

And these are bits and pieces of her home, little spaces filled with treasures she now has little use for, save to comfort and remind her of a life well-lived. 

She will stay here at home . . . for as long as we can keep her safe. 

And I will let time go by and still hold on to the life it contains.  


  1. Lovely, and so well captured in every aspect.

  2. I am right now with my 87-year old mother for a week. She has numerous health issues but she is in her own home. My brother and sis-in-law, her usual 'watchers' are on a well-deserved vacation so I traveled from KY to PA to spend a week with her. My sister comes Saturday for her turn. I'm terribly homesick for my home and family in KY but know this time is precious, too. Thanks for a well written ... and well-timed post.

  3. So beautifully photographed and written. You have the gift to move others with your images and words.

  4. Donna this is just beautiful! I agree with Roxanne that you have the gift to move mom's birthday is coming up in October, and as a tribute to her, I started my blog using her birthday as a post topic. I may need to make another one. Love the image of her bed, and how she makes it every day.

  5. This is so touching, Donna. Thank you very much for the kind mention.

    I took a few photographs in my grandparents' home about a year before my grandmother became too advanced in years to live alone. After she moved to a retirement home, the process began to empty the house and sell it. I never went back to that house, despite that I spent time there yearly from the time I was born. I had the urge to go back and photograph there again, to take pictures of the little things I didn't ever want to forget - like her little vintage perfume bottles in the powder room - but I never did. My grandmother died this past March and some part of me felt regret that I didn't take those photographs. But I agree with what your friend Candice said; an empty house wouldn't have been the same. The pictures I have are few but they were taken when my grandmother was living there, and that makes them as alive as my memories are.

    I love your photos, especially the one of the bed in that window light, and her nightgown folded neatly at the end. I could stare at that for hours. How beautiful, these little pieces of a life.

    P.S. My grandmother's perfume bottles are on my dresser now. :)

  6. Ahh, love seeing your Mom and her surroundings and where she is most happy at the store with a friend. So lovely how you have moved past this, a true gift to others and yourself. Lovely post-Donna with all the heartfelt words to soothe.

  7. I am thrilled you have started this project . . . not because I urged you to, but because I've seen the care you put into pictures of other people's houses (my sister's) and gardens (your friend's mother's garden). Even more important than the tension of learning to express your vision is the tension in photographing your past, the present, and the future which hovers just outside the frame.

    My favorite is the bedroom photo, too, knowing that it was *your* bedroom. My mother made her bed the minute she got out of it, as yours does, and put her nightgown under her pillow. I'd forgotten until I saw your picture.

  8. Hi Donna,
    You recently stopped by my blog and I just wanted to thank you for doing so and for leaving me such Nice comments. Now I'm visiting your blog and it's truly beautiful! I love your sweet photos and writing.

  9. Such a lovely post Donna, I enjoyed it very much .

  10. My sweet, friend. This post just makes me love you more. Your images are the perfect beginning. I wish I could read Cheryl's Happy Birthday post, but my grief is still too fresh. I can't believe it's been six months, it feels like only yesterday. I have a feeling your "project" will benefit more souls than you ever know. Blessings, my friend.

  11. The image of the bed and her neatly folded nightgown remind me of so many of my own images that I made when my dad was dealing with Alzheimer's. My mom would always make the bed, but it was a week when she was in the hospital that he did so and I'm so glad I was there to capture him doing it. Every evening around 5 p.m. or so he would go to their bedroom and fold down the bed and in his way prepare the bed for the night. He did that up to the very night prior to him being admitted to the hospital and then his immediate decline. He never returned home, but having those images that I took over those last five years are ones that are most precious to me. Keep going, include your mother in those photos even if you have to sneak to do it. My father LOVED being photographed until Alzheimer's took over and then when I started capturing him during that time you can clearly see that love had died. I attended a photography exhibit on opening night of Maggie Stebber's showing of the images she took of her mother...and what Maggie told me was the best advice...just keep making photos even if you aren't sure there's anything in them that speaks to you at the will one day. She was so right. If you aren't familiar with her work, please look her up...especially the ones she took of her mother. xo

  12. Donna, I read this post a few nights ago...and knew that I could not respond right away. I had to take it in and sort it brought back so many memories for me...I to, had a Miss Margaret....and she treated people just like your Miss Margaret. Thank you first of all for the lovely, lovely comment and link to my took me by surprise and I was like, "is she really talking about me"...and you were. It so lovely to know that someone really takes in what we say and write. I wonder often if people get it. You do. Here's the thing about this post that haunts me...Miss Margaret (mine) lived next door to me since the day I turned 4...we had a very long history. She was family because she had none...a brother that was a priest and she never married. Long story short, she watched over me and my brothers...when things went wrong at our house...60 years later, my husband and I took care of that she could live and die in her own home. I to had decided to take photo's of her...serious photo's, and of the house. So with camera in hand on that Monday morning...I would start. When I arrived, tv blarring but no Miss Margaret. She has an aneurysm in the night and we found her in the morning in a coma. She lived for 8 more days but never woke again..and then it felt invasive to take photo's...I loved her with all my heart and do have photo's...but not the ones like yours...the ones that tell her story and long life. The bedroom one here is so looks a lot like my Miss Margarets...I've got the ones with the empty rooms...I'm sometimes surprised by how our lives have connected lately...but I'm so grateful that they have...thank you so much for sharing your Miss Margaret with me and your Mom...Just keep shooting those sweet, melancoly shots.


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