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.

We Back the Blue.

Earlier in June we had the great honor to celebrate as a dear friend graduated from the police academy. His hard work and determination paid off as he walked across the stage and was presented his badge. It had been a long 6 months and one that was marked by great accomplishment but also great sadness. Christopher had been accepted into the program about the time our son, his dear friend, was in an auto accident that left him brain dead. It was a difficult time for all of us and yet in it a great thing emerged. Christoper started the program and 6 months later he is starting his job as a police officer. 

I'm grateful to be included in such a time of celebration and I look forward to the great things he will accomplish in the months and years ahead. Best Wishes, Christopher! We love you! 

The Places You Will Go........

Last week was filled with much celebrating as many friends that I know had their children graduating. There was a variety of ages as we had the future Class of 2029 graduate from kindergarten and the next generation of young adults graduating from high school, the Class of 2017. In between these two graduations I also was a part of a 6th grade promotion ceremony.  It was a weekend filled with bittersweet memories and just a few tears as friends and family gathered to cheer their graduates on to the next chapter of their lives. To the families who I had the pleasure to capture these moments for you...Thank you! I've loved that you have included me in your journey. I wish you a summer full of new adventures and fabulous memories.

I love this quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt.....The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. 

Congratulations and Best Wishes!! Go live your dreams!!!

Snapshots and Memories.....

Today as I do every day I'm always looking...watching to see what the Lord has for me. Sometimes it's something very small. Sometimes it's more of a feeling or a calm that comes to me in the midst of a crazy day filled with busyness. The thing that I find so comforting is that there is always something. This last weekend has been filled with running. Graduations, proms, parades, celebrations and BBQ's. As I've moved through all of these "life" events I was amazed at how often you came to mind, Evan. It was as if you traveled with me to all of these events. If you had been here I know you probably would have had your own things that you would have done. You wouldn't have gone to all of the same things I did but the great thing about now is that you're ever present with me. Even in places that you wouldn't normally be. As I stepped on to the field to watch the graduation of a dear friend from Vacaville Christian Schools; I couldn't help but sense....the senior sunrise and all of the other things that I was so privileged as your mom to experience with you. How lucky I am that I was available to be in those moment with you and Alex. So thankful for your Dad who has always allowed me such freedom to be fully engaged with you guys as you were growing up. To walk along the pathway were your name is forever placed with your class. It was a bundle of emotions and tears but Jesus met me and carried me. He placed me in the path of those who knew you and had fond memories of you. It was a great comfort.

From there to kick off the Memorial Day holiday with the Fiesta Day Parade.....again not someplace you would have hung out with me but I saw and connected with so many people and in those moments of connection and friendship I saw you there. I can remember so many parades you would have been marching for band at VCS and I would walk along with the group screaming and yelling. Such great memories....I treasure them...holding them so tightly. I went from the parade to Prom to photograph some of the seniors as they embarked on their last formal gathering before graduation. It was filled with silly traditions and beautiful guys and gals and it brought about such feelings of nostalgia for me that I thought my breath would catch. So many great memories I have from your high school season....limo rides....gathering of friends...laughter that was heard through out. It was rather melancholy. I was glad that Dad took me out for dinner at Mikunis so I didn't spend too much time in my head. 

One thing that is always certain with you and Alex is that when it comes to family you always are present. This weekend was no different. On Sunday we celebrated your cousin's graduation from high school. Interestingly when I looked up to see people arriving I thought for a split second that I saw you....same hair color...same facial hair...even a shirt the same color as you had but to my great disappointment it was not you. It caught me for a moment and in the hope that others not deem me crazy....it was only my mind taking me to places that it often does only to slam me back to the world in which I am here and you are not. I like for just that brief time to believe....to be in that moment of thinking maybe....... After we got home I went out driving as that is always when I find the most beautiful things...just before sunrise or sunset. Earlier this month Alex took me out to see the sunflowers and although they hadn't bloomed they had sprouted. I was checking on them to see their progress. Just a few more weeks and they will be ready.

Monday was a day of remembering...Memorial Day. We went to see grandpa at the cemetery and I can't help that when I go see him that a piece of you is also with him. The services at the cemetery were lovely...moving...honoring and I'm grateful for all who gave their lives for our freedom. So many emotions as I thought of my dad and really thought a lot about you. I think of so many similarities between you and my dad. As I come to the end of this month I am really filled with a lot of emotion. I've cried so many tears and I don't really see an end to that anytime soon. I keep them in check more...the world is not ready for all this emotion...when tears are tied to sadness and grief there isn't much room for that in this world.  So for now I will continue to be looking...watching....and waiting for the God of comfort to give me purpose in my pain. 

Justin | Class of 2017 | VHS

How can it be Justin that you are going to be graduating!?!?!? but alas time does not stand still as much as I would love for it to. I remember when your family first arrived in Vacaville and driving all of you around to help find housing as your family was moving from the Redding area to Vacaville. We have spent many days riding around since those early days and I am thankful to have been able to watch you grow and mature into the kind of person who values relationships and family. We had the best time running around the Sacramento....from the Capitol to Tower Bridge...doing Senior photos. I'm so glad Hannah came with us and that we could spend these precious moments together before you enter college.

I can't wait to do prom photos next week....Justin I am so proud of you...and all that the future holds as you embark on the next chapter on your journey. I love you and best wishes!!! 

Ben 2016

I had the pleasure of snapping a few photos with this young man, who in just a few days, will be graduating from High School. The days that passed from kindergarten to high school seem like eons but when your child graduates from high school those eons turn into fractions of a second. You almost can't catch your breath cause you want to be able to stop time from advancing. I was grateful to have been able to spend time with Ben and for just a brief moment to capture this time in his life for his folks. Best Wishes and Congratulations to the Class of 2016!!