January has been hard. I was honored to be able to photograph a wedding at Joliet Hospice Center this month, and it will forever be in my heart. Holly was strong, beautiful, and surrounded by love. I showed up before she started getting ready, and at first it seemed like any normal day. The kids were watching youtube, adults chit chatting about the day's activities, and everyone settling in with snacks and to-do lists. That day was special. Holly and Jerry spent years loving each other and raising a family together, and that day they were getting married.
I didn't know them prior. In fact, I had only heard about their situation two days beforehand. The moments I was allowed to be part of made me feel like I had known her for years. Possibly because she was so sincere and kind, or that above anything else she was a mother and a partner. Her eyes lit up when she looked to her children, and you could feel the connection between them. It was just so familiar, that look all parents recognize. We chatted a bit while Holly had her makeup done, but mostly I just observed. This part of the experience was more meaningful than the ceremony itself, watching her family interact with her.
My heart breaks for them now, learning of Holly's passing. It's taken me a few days to write this, because each time I begin I struggle to find the right words. I think back to the moments during the wedding, and watching so many family members and friends gather together to join her in celebrating. While guests gathered for photos, others suggested to keep it quick and limit how many came forward. Not Holly! She welcomed everyone with a smile and seemed excited to see them all, asking many to come up and take a photo with her. Truly, earlier she had been surprised by how many guests we said were waiting for her in the chapel room. At the risk of assuming incorrectly, she seemed flattered that so many had made it.
I am so grateful to have been able to experience meeting Holly and her family. In many subtle ways, I find my life has already been affected by knowing her. I find myself taking an extra deep breath while my kids are acting crazy. I find myself hugging them just a moment longer. I find that each day is a gift, and it doesn't matter if I am too tired, or the weather is terrible, or if we have a million things to do that day. I hope that Holly's family find's peace, and takes comfort in the support from those who love them.
Rest in Peace, Holly.