Friday, November 25, 2011

remembering the beautiful life of a beautiful woman

  Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
-Mary E. Frye            

Today is a day of a great loss, and a day of remembering a great soul of a great woman. To say Dorothy Risner was a great woman is one tremendous understatement, because she was so much more. But sometimes words just can't convey what the heart feels.

Today we lost our (Jake's) Grandma Dorothy Risner, who lived a wonderful life of 92 years. She raised two wonderful children, and lived to see her grandchildren grow up, and even got to meet some of her great grandchildren. She lived her last 70 years with the love of her life; her soulmate (the ever-so-charming Grandpa John Risner). She lived a glorious life, indeed. I was lucky enough to have had the pleasure of getting to know her over the past few years. She was definitely a woman very loved, and one who many looked up to. Over Jake and I's 6 years together, one of my greatest joys in our relationship has been the blending of our families. I have truly loved getting to know every single person in his family; those in very much extended family as well as his parents and siblings. Every one of the family has welcomed me into their lives with open arms. I have always felt part of the family from the very beginning. Jake's grandparents were no exception. From the first time I met them, I felt the love from them (also, they made sure to tell me so :) ). Fortunately for us, both grandparents on his side live in Kansas which is not too terribly far, so we would take weekend trips to go see them every so often. For me, personally, the greatest trip was just here recently in June of this year. I always enjoy going to see them, but this last trip felt more personal. It is one I will never forget.

Jake and I drove up to celebrate her husband of 70 years (can you believe that! SEVENTY years!) 90th birthday. The rest of the family drove back to Houston on Sunday morning, and Jake and I decided to stay another day and spend some extra time with them. It was such a wonderful extra day, and I am so thankful for that extra time. This whole extra day with them was really something I will always cherish and always take with me. We took the two of them out for dinner, and listened to their amazing stories, and just enjoyed their company one-on-one. The next morning on our way out, we stopped by the Grandma & Grandpa Risner household to say our good byes and love yous before hitting the road. And Grandma Risner - being the sweet kind soul that she is - had her little morning table set up for us. Complete with cups of coffee already waiting for us, glasses of water, and toast with jam and butter. It was one of the sweetest, cutest gestures ever, and though we had wanted to get an early start that day and get breakfast on the road - how could we resist such a sweet extension of kindness, and the opportunity to spend some additional time with them. And boy, we were so glad we did. That morning we got to hear about how they got together (such a cute story - basically Grandma tried to set up Grandpa with one of her friends in high school, however Grandma was always the apple of Grandpa's eye, and he was going to get that girl no matter what :)) and about Grandpa's stories in the war, their perspective on the world today, and their experiences growing up. I remember having the warmest feeling in my heart that entire 14 hour drive home, and thinking "man, I want to be just like them". I always knew they were kind and warm - but something about that morning with them really resonated in my heart. I fell in love with them more than ever, and saw them in my eyes as this idyllic couple - almost like a Johnny Cash / June Carter Cash love story. 

The first time I met them, their love for each other was clear as day. I didn't even know them yet, and the love was just so obvious. I saw it in Grandpa's face as he read a birthday card to his wife of 70 years (well then, I believe it was just 68 years, but you get the idea :)), a moment I captured on camera and has since been one of my favorite photos. Their love was obvious to any around, even an essential stranger like me.

Times like these make me appreciate my job, and my passion for photography more than ever. I capture these beautiful moments, that our family will treasure forever. I am so thankful to have been part of their family, that in itself has been a wonderful gift to me, so to know that I have given a gift of captured memories, that you can't put a price on, brings tears to my eyes. To know I do this for families all the time makes me realize how much power my photos have.  More than ever, I love my job, for I realize what a gift these photos really are to anyone who invests in them.

One of my favorite quotes by Andy Warhol:
The Best Thing About A Picture Is That It Never Changes Even When The People In It Do

And Another by Albert Einstein
A photograph never grows old. You and I change, people change all through the months and years, but a photograph always remains the same. How nice to look at a photograph of a mother or father taken many yeras ago. You see them as you remember them. But as people live on, they change completely.

Here are some photos I have taken of her and the Risner family over the years; photos I know will be cherished for years and years to come. Photos I am so happy to share with any one who loved Grandma Dorothy Risner as I did, and even to those who didn't know her at all.  You don't have to know her, for through these photos, the kind warmth of her loving soul, truly shines:

In loving memory of a beautiful woman with a beautiful soul. You'll never be forgotten, and always cherished in our memories. All our love.


simona said...

These are beautiful pictures, a wonderful way of remembering somebody you loved and making memories last.
Wishing you strength in a difficult time,

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