Excuse me, as I attempt to do justice to a story about someone I barely knew but who changed me for good. It’s been about eight months in the making; I’ve thought about this post and what I would say, over and over, yet every time I thought about sitting down to write it, I couldn’t. I continued to put it off because I feared I would not be able to write it well, and that may still be the case but if there is ever a day to do it, it is today.
My part of the story begins with an email from Victoria, the wife of Lorentho Stephen Wooden, two people who knew my mom but whom I did not. She wanted to set up a family session with herself, Stephen and their two sons. Typically, I would respond back with some dates that I was free, how much it would cost etc. but this family session was unlike any other, Stephen was dying of terminal cancer. It took me a few days to respond, not because I didn’t want to do it, but because I wanted to do it right. I proposed the idea of documenting their family like a “day in the life”, which is exactly what Victoria was thinking. She wanted photos of Stephen doing his many hobbies, so that one day when he was no longer here, they could look back and relive the memories of the things he loved to do. At this point in time, I had documented numerous weddings, babies and other very important and sometimes stressful milestones but nothing like this. I was scared to death of this assignment, but I knew it was something I had to do. Luckily for me, they welcomed me into their home and acted like it was just another day, except the fact that there was a photographer documenting it all. My nervousness quickly faded away. Two months after I took their photos, Stephen passed away but on the day I was in their home, you would never have known it was going to be so soon. He continued to fight until he couldn’t fight anymore. Today, many weeks later, he was finally laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
I used to say that I “documented the best things in life”, and that is still overall true but I guess I need to edit my own statement to “documenting life, the good and the bad” or something along those lines. I am fortunate to be able to take photos of so many huge and mostly happy milestones in people’s lives and to celebrate that happiness, right along with them. I am also fortunate that I get to do something I love as a job, instead of just a hobby. But I’ve realized that above all of that, I find even more happiness knowing my photos serve as a memory of who people were, at an exact moment in time, to those they never met or to those whose memories have faded.
What’s the moral of the story? I’m not even really sure and that’s probably why it’s taken me this long to write anything. I just wanted to share a small fraction of his life’s story. It was nice meeting you, Stephen.