Friday, December 28, 2012

A Very Merry Christmas Eve Surprise!

Two words: surprise wedding.

No joke.

Fifteen days before Christmas Eve, one of my oldest and dearest friends and her then-boyfriend asked me to photograph their SURPRISE wedding.  Hannah and Ben had been dating for years, living together forever and already owned a house together.  The obvious next step was to get married but a surprise wedding?  She assured me it was ok to say no to the holiday request; I don't think I could have felt more honored.

Hannah and I go way back.  We met at figure skating lessons in elementary school, skated competitively through high school and then stayed in touch during college.  We didn't attend any of the same schools yet always knew what was going on in each other's lives.  These days we don't talk weekly or even monthly but we always pick right back up where we left off.

We spent Christmas Eve afternoon holed up in the Daniel Stone Inn, getting her make-up and hair done, moonlighting as florists and calming those typical pre-nuptial nerves with some bubbly.  The plan was elaborate but went off seamlessly; one of her family's closest friends was to officiate (turns out he had married her parents 30+ years prior unbeknownst to Hannah) and it was to happen right there in her mom's living room immediately after we arrived.  The surprise was incredibly fun to witness - there were tears, a myriad of "what is going on?  will someone fill me in?!" and shear disbelief.  Hannah's mom, Patty, didn't figure it out until she saw her stunning daughter come in the front door to Pachelbel's Canon adorned in a wedding gown.

For all the happiness, there was one thing missing: Hannah's dad.  Dick passed away suddenly during our junior year in college and I'll never forget how devastating that news was to me.  He was one of the most kind and wonderful people I've ever known.  He never raised his voice, was always happy to give us a ride anywhere or give up the phone so we could talk for hours about nothing.  The skating world was dominated by the mother/daughter duo but Dick was always in the stands, whether that be just another practice, show or competition.  Patty and Hannah were the light of his life; as Hannah put it, we knew he was there in spirit as everything went so perfectly all day.

Hannah and Ben, thank you SO MUCH for the opportunity to document your wedding day (my first wedding gig!!).  I can't tell you how flattered and honored I was to play that role in your day and I hope you love the pictures as much as I do.  I wish you all the happiness in the world and can't wait to celebrate with you again this summer!  Love you both xoxo

Here are more than a few of my favorites!

The well thought out agenda next to some champagne and some nervous bride fingers on her phone!

Going over the plan one more time...

A proud and thrilled mama!

Re-living all the lies leading up to the big moment!

A proud family!

Luckily we could track Santa online!

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Beautiful Thursday in December

One thousand people.  Do you know a thousand people?  I definitely don't.  But that's the estimated attendance for Kate's funeral.  They say a picture says a thousand words but in this case, I think a thousand people show much more than that.

Two weeks to the day that I posted about the fight that Truax was putting up, I was attending her funeral services in Baltimore.  Those two weeks both flew by and dragged, were full of raw emotion, exhaustion and gratitude that her friends and family could be together to celebrate her life.  We had gone from the high of a successful consult at Sloan-Kettering in NYC Thanksgiving week to hospice care in a matter of days.  When my phone rang on Sunday night the 2nd, I knew it probably wasn't good news, and it wasn't.  Truax's heart had finally given into the disease and she passed away with her best friend and mom by her side.

We spent the next few days crying, traveling and organizing.  We missed many hours of sleep while laughing about how she would react to all of this attention, what she might love and what she might hate.  I found myself wanting to tell her about things that were happening, things that we had talked about before she died.  I hated seeing her text messages drop down the list of most recents knowing that it wasn't ever going to pop back up to the top.

But goodness, was the service beautiful and truly reflective of the person that Kate Truax was.  The cathedral was absolutely packed.  Her school shut down and bussed every single student and faculty member, even the assistant superintendent attended.  They closed the service with the student body singing "This Little Light of Mine" which needless to say, was a tearjerker.

While there were PLENTY of tears shed over the course of the week that I spent in Baltimore/Annapolis/DC, there were also a lot of laughs.  My cheeks were aching by Thursday night from all of the laughing.  Every photo album we could find had come out and every ridiculous story had been told.  As our friend Dan put it, it was an amazing show of the caliber of people that Kate had attracted in her life.  We were all so grateful to have each other to celebrate Kate's life and how she touched us all.

Getting back to "normal" life is certainly feeling like a challenge.  She's been gone for a week now and every single second of that week has felt nothing short of surreal.  Her beloved Ravens played the Redskins this past Sunday and I had to stop myself from shooting her a harassing text about Joe Flacco.  I feel truly blessed to have been able to visit Kate the weekend before Thanksgiving and while I never thought it would be the last time I'd see her, I'm feeling so lucky to have gotten that time together.  People who both knew Kate and had never met her have been so incredibly kind and thoughtful, I can't begin to thank everyone enough.

We spent Friday afternoon walking around DC, hitting the monuments for the first time in years.  We used to take these walks with Truax - she loved the history of DC and sharing her city with us.  We ate at one of her favorite restaurants that night and talked about the week that was along with plans for the future.  I know we'll never get over losing Kate but I know that her memory will live on forever.

Truax, I love you and already miss you dearly.

"It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree.  The wounds remain.  In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens.  But it is never gone." -Rose Kennedy.

While it seemed a little weird to take a picture at the reception, it also seemed like the right thing to do (thank you, Morgan, for taking it!).  Not everyone that wanted to attend was able to but I know we represented Union College well.  You can read Kate's beautiful obituary from the Baltimore Sun here.