The Bench

Graduation season is upon us with all of the excitement and anticipation that graduation brings. For me, it brings an element of melancholy. I love things that are consistent, the same, and yet with the excitement of the future, I grab hold of the past. This week many will end their high school and college careers and begin their futures — the taste of the bitter along with the sweet. Ten years ago this week Evan and his friends walked across the stage at Vacaville Christian Schools setting their sights on the future and what it holds.

A few weeks ago I came across Evan's senior photos. It was always my intention that my kids be able to express themselves within reason, and senior photos were no different. Even now, as a photographer, I so want people that I photograph to be there authentic self. Evan chose a friend, Looking Glass Photographs, to do his senior photo, and I love that she captured him so well.

While looking through the photo, I wanted to find the place where his photos were taken. As I looked through the pictures and as I drove around Vacaville looking for the place that had "The Bench" I realized that I'd lived in Vacaville 30 year and never really saw a bench like the one in the photos. The place that I was looking for had hills, trees, grassy areas, and a baseball diamond, the universal look of nearly every park in the US. But it had some unique things that I knew if I tried hard enough, I could find them.

Last week on my way home from Sacramento I drove through Davis which would have been a place that Evan would have wanted to do photos. He loved Davis, and so much of our time was spent there as a family. I stopped near the park that seemed the most likely, Slide Hill Park. After getting out and looking around, it became clear to me that was not the location. I continued to drive home and passed Community Park and thought maybe but I was hungry and cold, and I need to look again at the photos.

So today after work I picked up my camera and some items that mean something to me; art pieces, photographs, Evan's ashes, and his original draft of "Ley LInes" his first published poem and set out to find "The Bench." After doing some research, I realized that Community Park was probably my best choice, and as I carried my bags towards the skate park in the distance, I saw it...The Bench. Many things about the park have changed, but the overall layout has remained the same. The tree that was in the background of the photo of Evan on the bench has grown, and as I sat and looked around, I felt this genuine connection to this space that once was occupied by my son. It was surreal. I could see him hang on the fence, laying back in the grass, and thinking deeply about life. I set up my makeshift memorial, and I too pondered many things while sitting there.

So much of my grief journey has been about looking back to go forward. It seems to those watching that something is broken if the past is what you cling too. Well, I am broken, but in my brokenness, I see life through a different lens. Not a better lens just different. Ten years ago, Evan graduated from high school. If he had lived, he would have graduated from college Spring of 2017 and who knows what other things he would have accomplished. I say that because he does not have a future here on Earth. Evan’s future is now walking around in the lives of 5 other people who 931 days ago got the heart, lungs, and kidneys of our boy. Our other son, Alex, is raising awareness about organ donations through hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I say this with all confidence that we (John and I) couldn't be prouder of our sons. Proud of their sacrifice and proud of their decisions.

https://www.gofundme.com/PCT-NDLM

What I've Learned...

These are just a few of the things I’ve learned over the last two year since Evan’s death. The 2nd year has been one of the hardest as I’ve come out of the fog of the first year to find that time and people keep moving. Leaving me far behind and at times unable or wanting to catch up. I’ve learned that grief has no timeline for those who are grieving, but it does for those who aren’t. I’ve learned that everyone grieves differently and as much as you might want to be understood there will only be a few that can walk along the path with you. It takes a lot of work, patience, and love. It’s not for everyone, and most of it is yours to own. I’ve learned about myself through group and individual counseling that grief has a way of shaking up our lives and through the help of others taking the brokenness of our past gives us hope for the future. I’ve learned the incredible void that has been left in my life now that Evan is not physically here. I see that void in others as well, but that’s not my story to tell. I’ve learned that the 2nd year is by far harder than the first and the further away I get from my real/earthly time with Evan the space between the then and now becomes quieter. What’s not quiet are my thoughts…pictures and memories are never silent. They are the things that keep you in the present, and I desire to keep you present. I'm your mom, and you’re important to me so I will ALWAYS want to keep you present and I’m giving myself permission to do so. I’ve learned that the Lord in the midst of our yearning and longing gives us Hope and comfort. That He allows that space between Heaven and Earth to come together so that we can be comforted by not only those around us but also by those who we have released to His loving care. I’ve learned that who I was before Evan’s death has changed and that I will never be her again. Grief and loss don’t define me but they’ve changed me. That who I am now is different…and who I was will not return. That person I was is missed at times, but she no longer fits in the space that I now currently occupy.

Tonight we will come together to remember and to use the spoken word to do that. You now become a part of the great cloud of witnesses who contiues to cheer us on and remind us that you are not that far away.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1

Touch of Heaven

This morning at maybe 3:30am you entered into my dreams, and that has not happened to me since before the accident. I hung between waking and sleep just because the realness of your presence was tangible. When I finally had woken up I wanted to write all of it down. I’m weeping cause the nearness of you was so real. I could see you and sense you as if you genuinely were here. You were whole. I saw you just like you were before you left to go out with your friends. Nearly clear shaven and haircut like the first photo in this gallery. Your eyes had a smile in them. You held me in the hug that always brought comfort and understanding. You had on a black sweatshirt I remember that you wore and black jeans. I heard you downstairs in the bathroom you were looking in the mirror. You saw me and said I know you don’t think I’m here, but it’s me. You came to me, and you gave me the biggest hug, and you said I know you miss me. I couldn’t speak. I wish I could have said more to you although it didn't seem necessary. You seemed to understand. You seemed to know that I miss you. That all of us miss you. I honestly have not cried as much as I have in the last few days as I have since you died. These aren't just tears this is guttural crying from the depths of my soul. My soul cries for you. Thank you for reaching out from eternity to let me know you understand our longing for you. That you see the longing, your brother has for you. That you know how much you are missed. The ache in my heart is without quenching, but I also am so thankful that you came to me. Thank you for such a great hug. I wish so much that you were here and although I know that cannot be I'm grateful Evan that you reached out from eternity to give your mom a hug and hold me close. Grief has a strange way of showing up in the time and space that you least expect it. Today it took my breath away and I am still trying to make sense of all of the feelings that it brings.


Spring Forward, Fall is Back...

"How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days." - John Burroughs

Sunday, September 23rd marked the beginning of Fall, and that always brings about all of the Fall feelings. The one thought at the forefront in my mind is that I miss Evan. This isn’t a rare thing as I miss Evan every day, but maybe I'm anticipating the fact that this will be another birthday without him. This time of year has always been a favorite of mine. All the colors, the cooler mornings and warm afternoons, the anticipation of celebrations and just the vibe of Fall...but alas I'm overcome with melancholy. I know it will dissipate over time only to come back sometimes strong than when it left, but it lingers through January. The new year and winter time brings its own set of emotions and feelings with it.

I'm trying hard to be in a different state of mind as I approach this birthday. I'm battling the voices and memories inside my head that want to take me back and then yank me forward. I want to find a place that is restoring/filling me, but I also want to be mindful of remembering. When you are mentioned, you are present, and my desperate need for you to be in the present with me is the thing that I think is the most difficult for those who don't understand. I can't help but think that I'm celebrating yet another birthday and you are not here. That I will continue to celebrate birthdays and you won’t be here. That my future does not hold you and yet the past is filled with you. So the question is where do I want to be? And where should I be? The answer to these ponderings can't be answered by me at this time cause the space between the want and should is too vast.

The last few weeks I've kept busy with event photography and other thing photography related. I've been working, and in all the busyness I've been able to keep the memories that are inside my head at bay. That doesn't change that you won't be here to give me a hug or debate the latest political challenges. That makes me weepy...pretty much most of my memories make me weepy. I know it makes people uncomfortable. I know they want it to be ok. I know that they have the best intentions. I know that I'm loved and cared for in the best way. I just feel on some level that I've been cheated, robbed of moments in the future. I sometimes think that I worry about what people think. I’m learning that in all of this I am ok. That what I do and what I say can be judged, but in the end, I must walk out my grief in the way that fits me. I’m grateful for people who understand this truth. I’m especially thankful to my son Alex who walks along this path with me. Although we each are walking our own way, I realize that a portion of this journey we are walking in tandem with each other. Helping each other to take the next step and at times stopping to mourn our loss together. The vacancy of our loss is real to us as a family and the pain of that is raw and at times so very painful.

Sunflowers and what they're teaching me...

We are just a few weeks away from the start of Fall. It’s hard to imagine that when we have days that the temperature is close to 100 degrees but by the ticking of time the calendar inches closer to the date that signifies to us that cooler weather and falling leaves is around the corner. There is something that always tugs in me as we say so long to summer and welcome the coming of fall. I’m kinda a big fan of most of the seasons but fall and spring are usually my favorites. Spring as it brings the beauty of new birth after a winter of loss. Summer is filled with long days in the sun and warm evenings of smooth conversations. Fall brings with it the vibrant changes in nature and for me it was always a time to plan for significant milestones as it is my birthday season and the birth dates for my boys. 

Much of the joy and excitement of fall has changed for me since Evan’s death. There is almost this resistance/hesitance to slow down the movement of time. I can’t really explain it other than fall was always such a great season for me but I have sustain such a significant amount of loss during this season I want to stay parked in summer indefinitly. The reason being is maybe not so obvious to most but summer is easier. There are no time constraints. The days are longer the nights are shorter and the sunflowers are blooming. All of it doesn’t remind me that soon you will need to start walking towards fall. Because fall holds with its beauty a measure of pain. 

This year in my travels the process of this beauty for ashes was much more evident for me as I watched the transformation of my beloved sunflowers. If you follow me even a little you know I start my search for sunflowers in early May as they are just starting the growing season here locally. I try hard to extend my watch through the summer but this year I went out to some of the fields as they were dying. The significance of the dying process for sunflowers is just as important as the beauty they bring to us as we drive by the fields. It permitted me to be fully part of the loss of these flowers and to understand the great impact they have in their beauty and in their dying. 

Today, September 9th. 2018,  which is 22 months since Evan's death and is a few months shy of what would be his 28th birthday. Alex and I will celebrate our birthdays next month. The Earth will keep spinning. The trees will change and days will get shorter. But what I wonder does the significance of Evan’s life that was so vibrant when he was living continue in his dying?? Does the impact he made continue even though he isn’t here to have his voice heard? As I ponder those things I think of the beautiful sunflowers.  

https://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/yolo-grows-sunflower-seeds-for-the-world/

Where have you been?!?!?!

It has been a while since I last blogged. I’m not sure why only that life has been a bit glum, and the words have disappeared. Perhaps the words came earlier in this journey because the desperateness I was feeling from the initial shock of Evan dying or maybe they just continued so that the Lord could guide me towards a path of healing. Perhaps I have no idea, and in my way, I want to find the answers. All I know is that my words had gone silent. 

So much can be said about this season. As a person trying to promote a business and also reaching out to those who are hurting I sometimes find myself in the unfortunate space of having envy. Now that can look like a lot of things when you break it down, but I mostly envy all that will not or all that is yet to be. Guess that’s why it’s called envy. There is no end to it and society is enslaved by it. We live in an age of being in people’s front room by merely scrolling through IG or FB and drenched in people’s opinion just by responding to a post or thread. The noise and chatter are overwhelming, and it leaves little room for pondering or true evaluation.

I think that what I need is understanding as the places that I land on and the threads I scroll through leave me empty, shattered and unloved. I want a connection with people, and I am connected, but many times it feels as though something is missing. Most of the time I feel the emptiness of Evan not being here. Not that he would be with me at every event or outing. It's just that I miss him. It probably doesn't help that my husband and son are on a backpacking adventure and are on week two of a 4-week journey.  

I sometimes think with all that is going on I've forgotten the sound of my voice. 

Recently I spent time in the mountains and found little time for reflections as the busyness kept me from thinking or pondering too deeply. It wasn't until I traveled back home and the hollow feeling of loss came over me and left me feeling overwhelmed and anxious…nauseous really. When I finally got home and uploaded the photos from my nature walk in Yosemite that I thought that somehow in the busyness the Lord brought comfort as is His way when it comes to my photography. Photography gives me space to feel the full impact of what is going on within my heart and mind for grief is a constant thing.  It doesn’t rest or take a break. Sometimes it's a quiet whisper other times a raging sea...It can go from a sweet memory to a full-on belly cry. But alas it is constant. 

Grief is hard. And as much as we try to avoid it, we can't. We are all grieving something or someone. So when I'm feeling consumed by it. Shunned by it. Avoided by it. I have to remember who I am and to whom I belong. That the Lord is near to the broken-hearted. That He holds my tears in a jar. That those that I love He sees and that He sees me. He comes close to me. He values me. He sees my worth, and my heart ache. It doesn't scare Him or frighten Him. He comes CLOSER! So much comfort.  

9 years later...Vacaville Christian High School, Class of 2018

Thursday was the graduation ceremony for the Vacaville Christian High school Class of 2018. I was invited to come by several of the families and I had hoped to take a few shots of the seniors that I had done their portraits. I walked onto the field and headed towards where the seniors were gathering with advisers and administrators in preparation of them walking towards the stadium. I wish I could say that my steps were light and sure…as they were not. I felt an overwhelming sense of disconnection. I felt at odds with my heart and head so after hanging out for a bit longer I left the ceremony with my head winning over my heart. I often have this happen to me. It’s a struggle to let the mind win cause typically the most important people you care about lose. I wish I can say that I’ve mastered “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” but alas I have not.  After countless texts to a friend who had their own struggle, I decided to return and do what I had set out to do. 

This time of year always bringing about feelings of melancholy and nostalgia it also holds great excitement, anticipation, and joy. Most times I have to do a great deal of talking myself through these things as they will continue to be a part of living and loving people. I want to so much to be included and sometimes I don’t always sense that connection. I feel at arm's length from it and maybe that is just the season I’m passing through. 

Congratulations to all of the Class of 2018!! Thank you for allowing me to photograph this chapter of your story. 

I’ve included a few photos from Evan’s graduation in 2009 at VCHS. He was the second graduating class from the new high school.

An April Wedding...Becoming the Botkins.

In about two weeks some dear friends of ours and the best friend of our son Evan will be getting married.  This has been something we have waited for a very long time and the wait is almost over. We believe it will be the wedding of the year and we are excited to celebrate with you both.

I know that if Evan were here this would be the party he would be right in the middle of...I know he would've had great words to speak and you would be able to hear his voice singing loudest of all. So although it is bittersweet I know that Evan's presence and spirit will be with his dear friends as they say, "I Do". 

In preparation for this great day, I wanted to share a few snapshots from Brinton's shower that I've not shared. 

Enjoy!! and we'll see you in April!

Bouquets to Art at the de Young Museum

On Thursday I went into the city with a friend to the de Young Museum. The exhibition was called Bouquets to Art and it runs for one week with the last being on Sunday the 18th of March. This year, it’s 34th, the opening Gala was on Monday the 12th with a special VIP tour of all of the floral displays. The proceeds from Bouquets to Art help to underwrite exhibitions, conservation projects, and education programs at the Fine Art Museums. 

I have always wanted to go to this beautiful exhibition but it has never worked out and I honestly didn’t want to go by myself. So this year I found someone who has the same love and passion for art and flowers so we went. If you haven’t been to the de Young it is near the California Academy of Science and it can sometimes be hard to find parking. We missed the rain on our walk to the museum but weren’t as fortunate on our departure but it was fun just the same.

It was very crowded when we arrived but we started from the top and worked our way around the different galleries. As someone who is intrigued by floral design, I was so impressed with many of the florists' renderings of their art piece. The florists used so many different textures and flora to create these unique pieces.  I had several that I loved and when I came home and downloaded the photos they were just as beautiful as I experienced in person.

If you have the opportunity to go to this exhibition I highly recommend it.  Thank you, Christy, for going with me and for the great conversations we had. Love you!

I’ve included the link to the de Young for this exhibition.

https://deyoung.famsf.org/exhibitions/bouquets-to-art-2018

 

 

The Gift of a Family Through Adoption

Just about a week ago I had the unique opportunity to capture the adoption proceedings for a new friend. This particular adoption was unique in that the family of the adopted child was part of the process and it was something I have always wanted to participate in. The adopting family, The Hemsley's, have two biological children and now with this adoption, they have three adoptive children two of which are siblings. The whole family took an oath of commitment and it truly was an awesome experience. 

One of the sweetest parts for me...well there were a few really...was that UC Davis has this program called Princess Pals at UC Davis check them out on Facebook. These are undergrad med students who dress up and attend special events for kiddos. I've posted the Facebook link here: https://www.facebook.com/PrincessPalsUCD/

The other sweet thing is that Renee Hemsley, Executive Director, of https://www.hopes-anchor-inc.org/about which is a group that Encourage, Equip, Educate, Engage the Foster and Adoptive communities in Yolo County. She is passionate and fully engaged. Putting hands and feet to the needs of foster and adoptive families. It was a blessing and honor to serve their family as they do what they are called to do. Yolo County has been doing some great things and I'm grateful for my connections in this community.   

Lastly, what made this extra special for me is that this all happened on the day that would have marked my Dad's 89th birthday. It was pretty amazing!!

Super Blue Blood Moon 2018

It has been over a month since my last blog, more about that at a later date.  Each time I do one of these astronomical shoots I glean a bit more experience and see so much of the challenges it gives me. I didn't really start to see the red until it got nearly covered by the Earth. I have a full day ahead of me so I hope you enjoy these photos of the lunar eclipse.  

Look for a blog post soon.

Reflections, wondering and pondering....On the 4th Day of Christmas.

The holidays are always a time for reflection...as the year comes to an end and you look expectantly towards the New Year. I’m not really sure if I’ve lost the expectant part at times it feels like it. I am definitely reflecting and pondering. 

Mary pondered these things and kept them in her heart…. Luke 2:19

Mary pondered these things and kept them in her heart…. Luke 2:19

 

The story of the birth of Jesus is so large but these words of the ponderings of Mary and the insight they give to her in those first moments bring together so many feels. I believe that if Mary was a ponderer at this young age she did not stop her ponderings as she became a mother to the son of God and watched him grow. I think of myself as a ponderer. I remember so many moments as I looked at my kids at every season of their life and thought…. what are they thinking? What will life for them look like? I always was pondering for the todays and tomorrows. Was Mary any different? Did she ponder what her other friends were doing? Did she wonder if Jesus was eating enough? Gaining enough weight for his age? What friends would he make?

 

I do not want to come across as flippant because that is not my heart. The story of Jesus is both beautiful and holy. I do see so many parallels to my life experience and hers as a mom. I see her eyes as she watched her son carry his cross down the Via Delarosa. Do you think she saw the eyes of her infant son looking back at her? I don’t know but I can tell you she saw the depth of his soul and that is something I know she had pondered. When you raise your child you know them…. you see them. I don’t think Mary was any different. She saw Jesus. She knew him as only a mother could. I love that part.

 

I’ve been quiet the last month. November was hard in ways that could not be expressed in a quick post, Instagram or Facebook story. I’ve pondered many things as I’ve moved through this last year. I’ve thumbed through old journals, photos, schoolwork, and notes. All of my ponderings over all of the 26 years of Evan’s life have been so that I had those to last me the rest of my life, as he would not be here to live them out. That on some level has brought a bit of comfort but the sadness of it has been evident to my momma’s heart. I’m grateful for all of the other folks I’ve met during this year of mourning. I have felt so accepted by those who are in similar circumstances…I’ve especially appreciative those who have lost their adult child and the similar ways it has connected us. 

On the First Day of Christmas...the Geminids Meteor Shower.

Last night I braved the cold to capture my first meteor shower and it did not disappoint. I thought I had only captured one or two but after getting home and downloading I captured more then I had hoped. The night sky was beautiful and although I came home before the moon rose (my hands and feet frozen) these first captures were so fun and I'm glad I went. I might need different equipment next time. If you look closely my shutter speed was slow and you can see the red embers as it shoots across the sky.  Enjoy these photos from last night...

When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!  Matthew 2:10 

The Full Cold Supermoon ~ December 2017

When I looked up when the full moon was for December I was excited to learn that the Cold Full Moon is the only Supermoon for 2017. The planets have been busy this year with the eclipse happening this last August. My blog post about that is here http://www.dawnkincadephotography.com/my-adventures/2017/8/17/solar-eclipse

I set out earlier this evening to find a clear spot to watch for it on the horizon. There were a few low clouds so as the moon was rising there were a bit of not only clouds but the atmosphere caused a bit of distortion. I parked along the roadway near an open field and capture a bit of the wildlife as I waited for the moon to rise. it was hard to tell where it was rising from but the clouds started to glow and then I saw a small sliver poke through the clouds. Listening to Christmas carols and thinking of what it must have been like so many thousands of years ago as Mary was expectantly waiting for her son to be born. I'm in awe of the Lord and the beauty He has created for us to enjoy. Enjoy these photos. It was really a beautiful thing to observe. 

Glimpses of Me

For me, it seems that most days are not without some degree of sadness. I try hard to be who I was before Evan died and at times I think that person is still there. Grief has a way of changing who we once were. Oh, I see glimpses of her….some of those glimpses are good some of them not so much. All of the same hurts, insecurities, simple pleasures and wonders are present but all of them are now sifted through grief. I have watched people and places that have always been solid places for me begin to disappear before me. As I learn more about this journey none of this is unusual. It is actually very common. People scatter….places that held happy memories become a wound that is often times too large to bandage. The very things that you thought you knew are now vague memories or are completely forgotten. 

Not too long ago I was explaining to a dear friend through tears that there is something in me….it almost feels like I’m expectant…edgy…watching but with this restlessness in me I want to see progress…I want to push. She said that it sounded similar to that of a mother birthing a child. There you have it. That is exactly how I’m feeling. It’s hard for me to rest..to practice pausing…waiting…to lean in. I’ve been listening to a lot of worship music since Evan’s death. Some of my favorites are Elevation Worship. The words are so powerful. I read an article about their song “There is a Cloud” and the meaning of the song. Such a great article I've included the link here. http://www.newreleasetoday.com/article.php?article_id=2112

One of the many verses they talk about is Hebrews 11:1. "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." I’ve included one of the verses of the song in this post. This is from Elevation Worship “There is a Cloud”.

The Middle

Last week at my Grief Share meeting the subject was "Why?" As you might guess that is the biggest question that people who are experiencing grief ask themselves. One of the many takeaways from this section of the study was that we are in "the middle of the story". That in the middle of the story God is after the "deeper things". Another point that I really loved was that we should live in the exclamation point, not in the question mark. I know your reading this and it all might sound trite but for those of us who are living with the questions these things help us to move towards healing and help us to lean into the things we don't understand to look for the deeper things.

I'm learning to allow the longing, the missing as some want so much for me to be ok. For the most part, I am OK. I'm sad and part of that sadness is that I want to talk about Evan. I want you to know him like I did. I want to remember the good, the bad and the often crazy/zany person he was and will always be. I'm learning that my response is true and that my journey is unique to me. I don't have to run to catch the next train so to speak. I'm learning the "pause" or the "middle" as I move in grief. I'm looking for the opportunities to see Jesus and what He is doing in the "middle". I want to see the beauty in the "pause". To capture the essence of what it allows me to learn about myself and about the journey I'm on. Evan so much love has come from this tragedy I very much hope that you knew how much you were loved by so many. It's crazy! As for me, we are solid. There aren't any questions about that with us. We spoke of it often our feelings and there's great comfort in that. Doesn't make the missing easier just makes it bearable. I'm so grateful for your words that you gave so freely to not only me but a host of others. How blessed we are to have that. 

So much about this seems hollow...hollow in that I never thought this would be our family journey. I often think about why did I never see you beyond the life that you lived. I never saw you married or with children. Maybe that was just the future that was not to be in my mind. I don't know and now it doesn't really matter cause that just makes it more painful to think of the loss of that dream for you or should I say my dreams for you. Instead, I look hopefully towards the future that God has for me...as I wait in the "middle" the "pause". 

Reaching Back

As I come to the conclusion of this last week of celebrating my entrance on to the planet I was asked a question that strangely I've been pondering over the last several months, even before these questions were asked. The question was...as you start a new birthday year what were the highs and lows of last year? and what are your goals for this year?  Now as you read this and if you know me you can almost guess the low was/is the death of my son, Evan. This was the lowest time of my life not just of this year. I miss Evan every day but maybe it was the anticipation of the fact that this would be my first birthday without him which made me reflective and heart sick. I honestly don't get why I have to be without him on my birthday...I should be happy I got 26 birthdays. Kinda the glass half full but alas I miss Evan and feel cheated to not have him here. Reflectively as I look back I can say that one of the highs is my last birthday spent together as a family in Napa. I felt pampered and lucky to have such great people who love me....by celebrating and honoring me. In this same way this year Alex gathered many of the people he knew would be a blessing as I celebrate this first birthday without Evan. It was one of my greatest moments as I begin this birthday year. Although Evan's absence is always so real for me the gathering of friends to celebrate help me to feel his presecence in a way that brought great comfort....and just a few tears.

Preserves for my birthday.

Preserves for my birthday.

Love you.

Love you.

More of my tribe...Love you.

More of my tribe...Love you.

My kite flyers and the people that put them together.

My kite flyers and the people that put them together.

Another kite flyers

Another kite flyers

As I mentioned above some of the highs from last year and this year for me was the collective group of community that surrounded our family during and through this last year of loss. I can say that many have stayed connected to us and have walked beside us. I have forged new friendship with others who have lost their children and that has been a welcomed refuge for me. To have others who have walked this road a head of me and are reaching back to me and encouraging me forward has been truly a blessing that I wouldn't want to overlook. They have helped this journey to not be so lonely as many who grieve do so alone as grief is very personal and most just can't go there.  Many of Evan's friends have reached out and have stayed connected to us and have been a source of such connection and hope for me. I know that on some level many of them still feel such sadness and grief related to Evan and I want them to know that I can and will go there if they need to have a space for their grief.

So the other question that was asked of me was about my goals for the coming year...my goals as I move into a new birthday year is I want to continue to move in a healthy direction with my grief. I feel confident that this journey is one that can be hard to figure out. Once you think your moving forward something comes along to shake your very foundation and it takes you two steps back.  I will continue to read books, participate in groups, and continue to connect with those in my influence who need to see Hope in the sadness of grief. Because with Jesus nothing is wasted and this life that He has given to me is valuable.

I've set some goals about my photography that I can only hope will be positive for me. I want to give more time to the building of that area of my career life so that means change is on the horizon. I'm also wanting to look at more way to come along side those who are having difficult circumstances to capture moments that for them might otherwise go un-captured with those precious memories lost. I'm trying some new things and seeing what fits for me. I want to also spend time exploring Evan's writings. I really wanted to collaborate with him on a project that combines my art/photography with his writing but he is not here to work beside me. So in his absence I hope to bring life to his words that always seemed to have such depth and insight. 

It has been a good birthday week. I miss Evan and there is never, ever a moment that he isn't on my mind. My heart is broken but I'm not broken. Evan gives me the courage to forge ahead. #11