This will not be a blog post you are expecting and I can tell you it wasn't one I ever thought I would be writing. So please sit and take the time to read is as there are some people who, right now, deserve your undivided attention; wherever you are in the world. Danni I hope this is ok!
I see the world in beautiful pictures and I feel honoured that I have the gift of capturing true love. Mostly that is through the eye of a wedding photographer, but recently I have been truly humbled and honoured to have been welcomed into the lives of a beautiful family who are experiencing the tragedy we all dread, of losing a loved one and allowing me to photograph them together.
It isn't the most common use of my skill, but for the last few days and more importantly today I have realised the importance of capturing such a heartbreaking experience and that the art of photography has a meaning beyond paying my bills.
The first time I met Emma (photographed on the front right of this picture) was at my dear friend Danni's birthday. Had I not already known that Emma had recently been diagnosed with brain Cancer, that night I would not have known from seeing her. She was poised and bubbly, she laughed and made jokes. There were times when she would seem quiet but to be honest thats normal at any gathering.
But Emma had been diagnosed with brain cancer...and been given only 8 weeks of life left!
I brought my camera purposefully to this evening to do the only thing I know how, to photograph the special moments of this dear family. Little did I know that I would spend some very intimate time with Danni ( Emma's sister) , Emma and Sue (Emma's mum) and meeting more of their family on this journey.
Shortly after the meal, after a few days of fundraising and through the generosity of family, friends and complete strangers; they were all able to spend a few days in Deer Park Forest in Cornwall, so that they could all get some well earned peace and rest.
I was invited down to share in a special day celebrating Emma's son Thomas's 5th birthday. My camera was invited to!
I spent the day getting to know all of the family and photographing Emma and some holistic treatments that her mum Sue has been tirelessly using to ease Emma's pain and help with healing. Emma was not keen on the idea of being photographed but was interested in helping others see her journey.
I wont pretend to know the details of most of the treatments, but as an observer for the day. It is relentless for all of those involved. Sue certainly didn't sit down for a minute through a strict routine of shakes, lunches and treatments.
The day was had a strange feel, one of calm and peace with deep sadness at the heart of it. But nothing stops Emma from doing things. I offered to help her into a van at a point and she said 'if I want to do something, I am doing it. I don't let it get me'
That strength doesn't stop at Emma, the rest of the family had smiles on their faces and made the most of the experience of being away from it all and out in nature. We all went for a cup of tea in the forest coffee shop and it was then that I was able to take some beautiful pictures of Emma and her children.
I left that day feeling grateful for many things, most of all my family and my health. It is something I knew at that point I hadn't been taking seriously.
I remember giving the images over to Sue and thinking.... it doesn't feel enough.
I mean they are just pictures!
Time caught up!
8 weeks passed and Emma, still strong, and having defied the doctors predictions. There was more hope. I realised that Danni and her family were grateful for each single moment Emma was here with them, still fighting and still smiling. They had made the most of their time and being taking Emma out as much as they could and also doing things with the children, including some outings organised by Jeremiahs Journey.
but time caught up... a few weeks ago Emma and Sue went to get some rest in a retreat in Wales. 4 days in.... I accompanied Danni on a late afternoon road trip to the other side of Wales to collect Emma and Sue.
Emma's health and declined... she wanted to come home.
I can tell you now that journey was the most emotional journey you could imagine. Neither me or Danni knew what we were driving to (my husband didn't even know where I was going as I had forgotten to mention in the rush to leave) and we had a great time talking about work and what we do; but there was an undertone and a worry of how Emma would be when we arrived.
Arrive we did to the most beautiful cottages and landscape but also to the pain and fear of Sue and the sounds of sickness and pain from Emma.
I am not one for dramatisation but I don't think there are words to describe the pain I could hear from upstairs that night every time Emma moved or was sick. Danni spent time rubbing her back and helping her through the rounds of sickness.
I sat with Sue...trying to be useful.
I didn't see Emma until the next morning!
Be useful...so I am always one for being useful so I helped tidy and pack up whilst Danni and Sue helped Emma get ready. We packed the the van and Danni made a makeshift bed for Emma to lay on, for the journey home.
That day I saw the reality of the pain that Emma had been suffering through...and it broke my heart. I have never had to witness any suffering like it and to have no ability to help in anyway.. there are no words.
All I have is images...
So Danni brought her sister and her mum home. Through tears, sickness, pain and exhaustion she got her home to her children.
Emma had a better night that night and managed to sleep through, I can't help but think she was missing her children.
00:44am and this needs to be shared..
So it is 00:44am on Saturday 7th May 2016 and yes I am writing this NOW because time has indeed caught up.
Yesterday Emma became very ill and received the results of an MRI that showed the cancer had gotten worse... she has now been given only days and the heart ache of the family and friends can be felt for miles.
I can't say that writing this is going to help anything, but if we all give a part of ourselves then collectively we can send our love and energy to my dear friends right now, when they need it the most.
To Emma's children who are fighting for their mum.
To Sue who is fighting for her daughter.
To Danni and Terri who are fighting for their sister.
To Dave, Stacey and EVERYONE else I have met and names and escaped me and those who I haven't yet had the chance to.
Help me send them love, strength and energy for whatever the next few days bring.
Give whatever you can give in your thoughts and prayers.