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

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.