Friday, October 18, 2013

Life and Death Through The Seasons

Well, I had a post written up on August 16th, the anniversary of Skylar passing away. It was full of emotions and updates, but there are several reasons I never posted it.

I don't want this to be a pity-me blog. Yes, it was extremely difficult to see literally hundreds of moms posting about their kids going back to school complete with photos... meanwhile, I was grieving not having my little pre-k daughter to brag about. Here is one of the lines from my post:

"It's difficult to be back in the full swing of life, especially when anniversaries come around and I'm thrown back to the day that breaks my heart all over again."

I was thankful for great friends and thoughtful people who sent me sweet text messages and emails. I don't really expect it at all because I am horrible with dates and don't expect other people to remember either. However, it is nice to know people are thinking about me as I go through some tough seasons. 

July 25th, I had the awesome opportunity to photograph the African Children's Choir perform at the Buckhead Theater. They've been traveling around the US for over a year and there is a documentary film in the making. I was honored to capture their full day including their worship time and VIP meet and greet. I overheard that the kids were going to be surprised with a trip to Disney and asked if they needed that photographed. 

You see, I was already planning to visit my step-grandma in Orlando because she was put on hospice and we knew she didn't have a lot of time left. With her house just 20 minutes from Disney, I volunteered to photograph the kids. They are the most joyful life-giving kids to be around and I knew it would be a much needed encouragement in the midst of suffering. 

When I arrived, it was so sad to walk into suffering, but I was glad I made it. The next day I woke up early to meet the kids for Disney and pulled up just as they were telling the kids where they were going. I quick pulled out my camera and started documenting the day. Make sure you check out the part 2 if you look at the photos... As I was spending the evening with my stepmom, I was just so burdened to see her go through a lot of what I went through with Skylar. I prayed that the suffering would end as did the pastor and others. The next morning, I woke up to my stepmom asking me if I could come check for a pulse because she thought her mom passed away. 

I got a glimpse into how my parents felt watching me lose Skylar, because it was heartbreaking to see my stepmom's hurt and know her loss. After her mom passed away, the next four hours in the house were tough on my stepmom as she went through the final moments with her mom's body. It was also difficult for me as everything that followed was a flashback to two years ago, just with a bigger body instead of a 21 month old. I was surprised to find myself in shock after it was all over with because I just wasn't expecting it. I was really grateful to be there so my stepmom didn't have to be alone, but it was a tough way to start the month of August. As I drove the long drive home by myself, it was a good time to think, process and just drive.

As the 16th approached, my heart was heavy and I knew I had to be "professional" that day as I had several meetings that couldn't wait with clients who just knew me as the owner of Shutter Sweet Photography - not as a woman who is missing her baby girl. I kept busy and distracted myself, but it only delays the grief from hitting. Thankfully, I've learned to make space for my emotions to prevent it from building up and coming out unexpectedly. 

I had two weddings to shoot in September as well as several portrait sessions and events. During the second week of the month, I had 6 shoots in 7 days. Needless to say, September flew by. This month, I had the huge pleasure of photographing the Gooden Family as they went to Charleston for a family vacation and will be sharing those photos on the Shutter Sweet blog soon. I'm currently working on a complete re-design of the Shutter Sweet Photography website and am launching it on October 20th! I'm very excited! 

Just a few days ago, I was invited to go to Uganda on November 14th to photograph the African Children's Choir as they return home. It is short notice and there's no budget to cover at least $2,000 of expenses, possibly more. My photos have the potential to make it into the documentary film and possibly a book that will be produced and they may not. However, that's not why I want to go. I know that I was created to tell stories and capture real moments and raw emotion through photography to share with others that make an impact. When I went to Ukraine in 2005 as the documentary photographer, I felt alive for the first time and loved having purpose. Photography and design skills are my gifts that I can use to bless others. I love documenting life and creating meaningful pieces of art, which is what I set out to do with Shutter Sweet Photography - as you can see with the latest family portrait session with the Hill Family (husband reaching the end of a fight with stage 4 melanoma cancer). 

If you have a willing heart or know of anyone else who does that has skymiles or extra cash laying around to donate(so many people, right?), please contact me! You can email me at ashley (at) or contact me here. Some people may not understand, but I know in my soul that I am supposed to go on this trip. I know there are needs everywhere you look, but I am hopeful some people will be moved to help me get to Uganda. 

Thank you for reading. Another post is not too far behind...