Thoughts on Life and Death

February 3, 2008

It has been an interesting and challenging week to say the least. It all began with a phone call last Sunday, and ended yesterday with me boarding a boat headed out to sea. As the family was scattering my brother’s ashes into the Atlantic Ocean I was reminded of something that was said to me recently. A wise person told me that if we were stripped of every possession we own and even if all of our senses of sight, hearing and smell were taken from us, we would still have our memories because those can never be taken away.

I have always known that what Meridith and I do as photographers is important to our clients and their families. I have also known that it is generally the older family members who have a great deal more interest in the family group photos that we create at weddings and I now know why. My mom carries a photo of the family with her everywhere. I don’t mean in her wallet, it’s in a frame and it sits on a table. It’s her memory.

We put a lot of energy into creating powerful, beautiful and dramatic images that our clients are excited to show the world. It often turns out that what we might consider to be the less interesting images of family groups are the ones that mean so much later on. As the ability to replay the past in our heads becomes diminished over time, these images that exist outside of our heads become so much more important. I think that a lot of what I see going on in the photography industry today misses that important point.

I’m the oldest of five kids and that has given me a perspective on life that I guess only the “older brother” can have. So many people this week had one question on their mind. Why? Why would this happen to a person twenty three years old? At a time in life when things should have just really been getting started? Lucky for them I know the answer and I don’t mind sharing it.

First, it’s important to know that every person is here on earth for a reason. The thing that is more important to remember is that the universe works in mysterious ways. There is rarely ever a straight path between cause and affect. Some people were put on this earth however briefly to remind the rest of us that life is precious. Because of this experience I will be sure to hug my son more often and do more show him that he is loved. Hopefully others will do the same. Our children hold the future inside them, and if they feel more love and positive energy from us they will be better equipped to create a brighter future. So, even though there is grief and a sense of loss right now, this loss can create a better world if we choose to see it that way.

15 Responses to “Thoughts on Life and Death”

  1. Hey James and Merdith! I am praying for you and your family during these hard times. You are right, it is the hard personal experiences and loss that help us to reflect on our profession. Times like these sheds light on the importance of creating memories and loving while you still can!

  2. getthelook said

    Thanks Millie, and thanks too for being there for us. It meant a lot.


  3. Cheryl said

    Well said by my “older but much wiser brother”. One flower may die but an entire field may bloom.

  4. James,
    I’m so sorry to hear about your brother. Thank you for sharing such beautiful thoughts on life and death. I spent this past week saying goodbye to my grandfather who passed away on Friday. And while I’m sure this does not compare to the loss you are feeling, your words brought me a lot of comfort and perspective.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and Meridith.

  5. hey james,
    i know this was one of the hardest weeks for all of our family… i just wanted you to know that YOUR family loves you and merdith and that precious little boy… i know you dont remember the memories you gave me as a child … teaching me how to swim and dive in the deep end of the pool and to embrace the fear as you were taunting me 😀 … and saving me from your sister who would torture me to play barbies with her … when all i wanted to do was hang out with the boys … i have fond memories of all five of you … watching jason and josh when they were just five and seven till jason was about nine or ten … ( IM SO PROUD OF JOSH !!! and his service to our country ) i still think about those kids daily ( even before this tradegy ) so i wanted you to know they are still in my heart …. life is going to move on whether we wont it too or not … so if you need me to do anything from here in wilmington whethers its kicking jason in the butt or giving him a big a ole hug and letting him know he has something precious to live for now too… ill do it … i never regretted a word i said to B .. whether it was harsh or kind … he needed to hear it all … and we all did it b/c we all loved him … b/c we are all FAMILY … and i think we have one of the best families in the world !!!
    take care

  6. Michele & Ben DeFoe said

    I am so sorry to hear about your brother. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your whole family. When you and Meridith photographed our wedding in April, we could have not known how important that “boring” family photo could be. Two months after my wedding my Uncle passed away unexpectedly and then four months after that my Grandmother passed away. Those pictures are so important to us because they are the last reminder of how full both of their lives were. Without you, we would not have those pictures to help us recreate those memories. Thank you. Again, our deepest sympathies for your loss.
    – Michele & Ben DeFoe

  7. getthelook said

    Wow,thank you Michele for your thoughts and for sharing your experience with a situation like this. We know that every wedding is a big family gathering just as much as it is a celebration. Because of that we work fiercely to cover as many of the participants as possible.

    Weddings are such a happy time and the family and guests are usually looking and acting their best, so a photograph from that day is certainly a comforting way to remember a loved one.

  8. James and Meredith! I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I have no words except that my heart hurt for you when I read this. My thoughts are most certainly with you.


  9. I am so sorry to hear this sad news James and Meridith. May you and your family have peace and wonderful memories as you remember your brother.


  10. Tamara Lackey said

    You’ve shared some beautiful thoughts with all of us, James. Thank you. I have been thinking of you & your family quite a bit since we spoke last week. I wish you all such peace, and much treasured time to hold on to all that truly is so precious.


  11. Hayley & Brent Reck said

    James, Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at a time lke this. We completely agree about how precious life is. We hugged Rockford a bit tighter when we heard the news and we try to tell him and the rest of our family how much we love them and appreciate them. We knew even before the wedding how amazng a photographer you are but now we realize that you are an amazing brother, father, husband, writer and all around guy. Thank you for your profound words about the dreadful subject that no one wants to talk about. Please give our best to Meredih as well.
    God Bless,
    Hayley & Brent Reck

  12. Tiffany Rhodes said

    James and Meridith,

    You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. You have such a special family! It seems like yesterday that I was at your house playing with Cheryl, Brandon, and Jason in the pool, probably because you and Todd told me to go somewhere and leave you alone (ha,ha). Time goes by so quicly. I truly believe when someone is here with us for a short period, that they were sent by God to be angels in our life. Brandon was truly a special person and he will be missed by many. We are always here if you need anything. You, Meridith, and your whole family are such a special part of my heart. I’m so glad that you and Todd were best friends growing up, so that I could get to know such a wonderful family!


  13. Joshua Walters said

    hey james hows it going well i am hanging in there well that wasa good article on Life and Death i like that u got my tatoo in the pic well i love u and email me stay in touch i goback to iraq in a couple of days

  14. Sandra Henderson said

    James and Meredith,

    I’m sorry to hear about your loss. I don’t know the details, only that my heart goes out to you and your fmaily. Please let me know if there is anything that I can do for you both.


  15. Hey guys, Annie and I are so sorry to hear about your brother, James. It’s so hard sometimes keeping in mind that death is another part of life, and that we all go through it at some point. We’re glad you’re there for each other and for Will, each and every day. It means so much. We too, are here for you. While neither of us have lost a sibling, we and everyone on Earth has experienced the passing of a loved one. It is something that connects us all. We’re sending warm thoughts your way.

    Bill & Annie

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