This image I took at a wedding this summer just keeps tugging my heart strings so furiously and it's making me feel the need to share why. This isn't something I talk about in depth or online, but I am feeling the need to while I sit here and tear up a little. (ok. a lot)
My grandmother has dementia. She's still with us and still has amazingly good days and I love her beyond words, but I can see her slowly fading and the days that aren't good are really not good. On those days I miss her more than anything, which is incredibly frustrating because she's still here and I feel this sense of guilt for missing someone while they're still alive especially when so many people no longer have their grandparents in their lives. Sometimes she's angry. So very very angry. Sometimes she's violent. Sometimes she stops total strangers to tell them who we are and how much she loves us. Sometimes she doesn't know who I am. She'll tell me stories of my grandfather and how amazing a man he was. Stories from when they first met as if that day were yesterday. Sometimes she remembers he passed away, and sometimes we have to relive that moment with her again and again and again to explain to her why he's not there with her. It's a punch in the gut.
He was the love of her life. Watching them together always made my heart swell. Oh sure, they had their moments, but at the end of the day they were lobsters. There was one day in particular when my grandfather was in the hospital. They had tickets to go see James Ehnes play (classical violinist. look him up, he's amazing) and my gradfather couldn't go, but he insisted that my grandmother go without him. My cousin and I went out to keep him company while she was gone for the day. He tried to pretend he was in good spirits with us there, he always did, but in truth he was in pain and you could see it on his face. We tried our best to lift him up, but there wasn't much we could do or say that shifted his mood. Then my grandmother returned. The moment she walked in the room, everything in him lit up and lifted. The twinkle came back to his blue eyes and everything about him glowed. They embraced freely in front of us, forgetting their British upbringing, and I remember thinking "I want that one day." Well, I found that. I get that same twinkle when I see Joel and I'm marrying him, so now I want to share this with one of the people who taught me what to look for in a partner.
One of the first discussions Joel and I had about the wedding was how important it was to have my grandparents at the wedding. Between the two of us there are only 3 living grandparents, all on my side. I'm so fortunate to still have my Nan and Pop and my grandmother here, and I want to share this with them. We knew it would be difficult and a bit of a question mark to get my grandmother out this way and we'd have to bring her companion for the day, but we'd find a way. After numerous conversations and coming up with many different tactics to make it work, it has become apparent that this isn't going to happen and I'm absolutely devastated.
I am counting my lucky stars that my nan and pop are still coming and I'm already excited to hug them on my wedding day.
I have always made a conscious effort to focus on grandparents at weddings when I'm shooting. Not just in the family portraits section, but also throughout the day in candid moments. Now more than ever, as I plan my own wedding and deal with the slow loss of my grandmother, I am seeing the importance of these images and these moments. They're tugging at my heart strings more than ever before, and I can only imagine how they must make my couples feel when they see them. I hope they treasure them forever. This is one of the gifts I can give my clients, and I am so thankful for that.