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

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/