Okay, friends, this post might be a little raw, but it’s written from the heart.
This photo means more to us than we can put into words. These are our sweet, sweet grandparents, Bob and Shirley Richards, married for fifty five years. They were Amy’s first, but over the last ten years together, they’ve really becomes ours. Our grandpa is so proud of us, his six kids and all ten of his grandchildren. He loves to make jokes, stay up-to-date on all things politics and stands as the spiritual patriarch of our entire family. Our grandma is so full of joy. She makes everyone feel like the most important person in the room. Her love and her warmth is overwhelming, and her smile is infectious. Her faith is rock solid and she’s lived her life as an incredible example to all of us.
Jordan took this photo at our cousin’s wedding reception in Nashville just a few short months ago, and today it’s the photo we cling to. That we’ll cherish forever. Because this week, we watched our grandpa hunch over our sweet grandma’s hospital bed and say his last goodbyes after 55 years of marriage. We watched him weep at her bedside as he told her how much he loved her and gave her permission to leave him for now. “I’ll see you again soon, my darling,” he told her.
We didn’t have the privilege of knowing our grandparents when they were young, full of their own hopes and dreams for the future. We’ve only known them with their gray hair, their glasses and the lines on the face that reflect a life well-lived. We only know them as grandma and grandpa. But because a photographer was there to click the shutter and tell their story, we get a small glimpse into what they were like at the beginning. When they were just Shirley and Bob, two young pups in love. When they weren’t anybody’s mom or dad, anybody’s grandma or grandpa. Could these two people have ever imagined on this day, their wedding day, that they would one day have almost a dozen people in this world who call them grandma and grandpa? Who would get to look at these photos and get to see not just what fifty-five years looked like, but also year one. That they would have room full of people who exist because of their love.
These past few weeks have been a time of grieving and sadness, reminiscing and memories. We gathered with our entire family into our grandma’s hospital room to say goodbye. We saw her laying there in her hospital bed, looking so small and lifeless, lost in a tangled maze of tubes and beeping machines. Our cousin sent us the photo of our grandparents dancing at their grandson’s wedding this week to thank us again for taking it, and as we looked it, it sucked us in. And choked us up. We couldn’t stop staring. We could feel all the life and all the joy. Seeing that smile on our grandma’s face, a single moment captured, frozen and preserved forever was such a gift. This photo? This photo is everything to us now.
And that’s the thing that hit us about this thing that we do. This thing called photography is such a gift, isn’t it? We get to be the ones to preserve memories that will only continue to be more and more precious as time marches on. We’ve clicked the shutter hundreds of thousands of times, and yet, this week, we understand what we do on a whole new level. How many grandmas, just like ours, have we clicked the shutter for? How many parents? How many siblings? How many families are going to cling to a photo like this on that day they see their grandpa say goodbye to the love of his life for the very last time?
So today, we’re renewing our commitment to excellence. And perspective. We’re committing to recognizing that no matter how many weddings we shoot, every single one is just as important as the one before. No matter how many “I now pronounce you husband and wife,” moments we witness, we will continue to treat each one with the respect and reverence it deserves. Because we are responsible for the photograph that someone else is going to cling to on their hardest day, just like we cling to this one now. And not just one someone. But a whole lot of someones.
We have the privilege to preserve a young couple’s love in its raw, pure, joyous, unfiltered, emotional state for generations to come, so that fifty years from now, when our clients are grandparents and their granddaughter gets engaged, they’d be able to open their wedding album and that 20-something would be able to feel the real, fresh, vibrant emotion come back to life and jump right off the page, that she’d know by feeling not just by seeing, how much her grandpa truly loved her grandma, because we believe that a legacy of love, love passed from one family member to the next, has the power to transform marriages and, therefore, entire family trees.
Tomorrow, we have our next opportunity to shoot a wedding. And what better way for us to honor our grandma’s memory than putting everything we have into telling the story of the next young bride’s wedding day? Knowing that one day, our bride’s children and grandchildren will hold onto those photos with everything they have.
So, friends, those of you that click the shutter, we hope this can be a reminder to you, the way this was a reminder to us, that as much as all the other things we all love to talk about in this industry matter, like lenses and SEO and camera settings and branding and ideal timelines and social media strategies, we can all take a deep breath together and remember why we got into this business in the first place. To preserve memories. To impact lives in real, meaningful, significant ways. And to celebrate life’s greatest gifts.
We love you, Grandma. We know you are dancing in heaven today.