This week I wanted to talk about something that has been close to my heart these last few months. I did a blog about it before so I won’t go into huge detail, but the subject of losing the people closest to you has been in the forefront of my creation process lately. I have been invested in photographing the people I love in ways that I feel embody who they are.
I had a health scare with my mom towards the end of last year, and it was a sad but necessary reminder of the fragility of life. I am grateful that I have had this long with her, and truly any moment could be the last. The same goes for everyone, and perhaps that is why I have been increasingly interested in making connections that really mean something rather than letting people flit past me without a true understanding of who they are.
When my mom landed in the hospital last year, it was a shock while at the same time being something that we knew could happen. She is the strongest person I know, yet also has Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis, and her health has always been fragile. I didn’t even know she was in the hospital. She didn’t want me to know because she didn’t want me to worry. That’s just who my mom is…a mom through and through, someone who puts other before herself and never wants anyone to worry.
But worry I did, and that worry lead me to this photo series: photographing the people closest to me before they pass. When my mom came to visit in December we did a photo shoot together. Not a far-fetched idea considering my mom is insanely photogenic and loves the camera. My dad assisted, throwing her dress and hair in the air for me, while my mom twirled and danced and ran from the camera, coy and energetic. It was a time I will never forget, and if I do lose her sooner than I feel ready for (but then again, that is the way with everyone), I am so glad I have this image and the memory of creating it to represent who she is to me.
Thank you, mom, for who you are and what you have given me. It is far more priceless than this photograph, but for now, it is all I could think of to give. Sometimes even the smallest gestures speak volumes about the heart.
Do you photograph the people you love, or document their lives in some way? We are storytellers, and I feel now more than ever it is my job to tell the stories of those around me, even if it is in my own twisted voice. Do you have any unique experiences with love and loss? If nothing else, I am inspired to think about the abilities we have with our creativity in new ways.
Gina Miller - Beautiful Brooke! Love it.
brookeshaden - Thank you Gina xo
Maryanne - simply beautiful.
brookeshaden - Thank you so much Maryanne!
Kristin V - I love that you are sharing this with us. Through your fear of loss and vulnerability you were able not only to create this beautiful art celebrating your mom, but you also created a wonderful memory to be cherished. What a gift.
brookeshaden - Thank you Kristin – I can only hope that sharing something personal inspires someone else to consider the time we have together and cherish it. I know I needed a reminder xoxo
Carla Paton - Beautiful. I bet your mum loves the photographs. Illness is a hard thing, and as we grow up we notice even more how important spending time with the people we love becomes.
brookeshaden - That is, I have to say, the wonderful thing about growing up 🙂
Mary Angelini - Wow, that is so deep Brooke. I am sorry that you and your family are going through this. I absolutely love the picture you made of your mom, she is very beautiful and photogenic as you said but your image makes her more so!
I am not close with my mom at all and actually we rarely speak anymore, something I have come to terms with it. However, my daughter who is now in college has opened up to me recently about her fears of losing me. Just hearing her talk like that, imagining her having to get through the next decade or more of her life without me rips my heart out. Tears are welling up now just thinking about it.
Since she’s gone off to college I try to make the most of the times we are together and, unlike your mom, she loathes having her pictures taken. However, maybe seeing the bigger picture – that it’s more about the time together than the activity, she finally indulged me and let me photograph her.
We had a fabulous time and I now have great images of her that sustain me in between the time we are together. The rest of my family are far flung across the globe, quite literally, but now that I have discovered my passion for people portraits, I am planning on ways I can get to see and photograph them, if for no other reason than to bring them closer to me and bridge the distance apart.
Thank you as always for opening yourself up to all of us and sharing your beautiful story! inspiring as always 🙂
brookeshaden - Mary, that is so beautiful. I am so glad that you are using your camera to make those connections which are so very important…but of course it isn’t really the camera, it is your big heart and love xo
Tara Denny - Whoops, That one had me in tears. Oh my, Brooke. You have a gift, and a powerful one at that. To move people to tears and inspire them with a single image. You create more than art, you create hope and dreams, and love. Now, excuse me for a minute, I have to go call everyone I love. BRB.
brookeshaden - Oh Tara that means so much to me, thank you for being a positive force in my life. And yes! I love that – call everyone, time can be short but so meaningful 🙂
Amani - Brooke, it is so amazing how you can turn negative feelings into beautiful and meaningful pictures. I can only imagine what it must have been like to have that kind if scare. And I truly hope that your mother gets better.
I don’t claim to know what it’s like to lose a loved one, the way you’re talking about it. But I have lost someone who I loved ever since I was a kid. I built up dreams and hopes around that person. And about a year and a half ago, it turned out that everything I believed in was a lie. That person betrayed me in a way that made me feel like the person I knew and loved died, and there’s a stranger standing infront of me. I don’t know if I dealt with it the right way, but i didn’t know what else to do. To this day, I’m not sure if I’ve accepted what happened and it still hurts. I’m not just saying this Brooke but what you gave me during the workshop was exactly what I needed, and I didn’t even know it at the time. But after losing hope completely, you sparked something in me that made me want to fight my demons. Thank you so much.
brookeshaden - Amani, you have proved to be one of the strongest people I have ever come across and I don’t even think you know it. You have had a profound impact on my life just by being open and honest and loving. Thank you so much for that. And I am so sorry to hear about that loss…yes, that can be just as huge as death, and in many ways the same. It will get better though, and I hope that you find something within yourself that can fill the empty space. Hugs!
Joshua Pheneger - I wish I had thought to do this with my mother and sister, it is such a beautiful and loving sentimentand and a remarkable way to preserve your memories of your loved ones.
I lost my sister suddenly several years ago, and my mother just as suddenly at the end of last October. I wasn’t prepared to lose either of them, and I have few physical reminders of them, but they are a part of me and they will never truly be gone.
brookeshaden - Oh Josh I am so sorry to hear that, truly. My heart breaks.
Ana - What a beautiful creation! I share your feelings about doing something before it’s too late, but only because of my regrets. When my mom was diagnosed with cancer I was unable (out of fear) to take photos of her. I wasted so many opportunities and regret it to this day. I have many other things that remind me of her but very few photos. She was my best friend and we had this amazing bond and it’s been three years that she’s been gone.
Because of that I decided to take lots of photos of my dog when she was diagnosed with cancer. We had nine months together after the diagnosis and there are so many photos of her and of the two of us. This past Friday my beloved Bella (aka The Fuzz) crossed over to be with my mom. My apartment is painfully empty but at least I have all these beautiful memories of her in my photographs. Some people will think that a dog is not the same as a human, and I respect that, but for me she was my world – I have no children and no family in the country and she was just about all I had. We were together for 14 years and we shared many good times and bad. There is a special bond between some people and their pets and I was lucky to share that with The Fuzz. I am even luckier to have had the courage to express and document that love while she was here.
Thank you for this blog post – it was perfectly timed.
brookeshaden - Oh Ana, I feel you so much. My cat died a year and a half ago now and I felt just the same. I wouldn’t really speak of it to anyone because I knew no one would understand how great that sort of a loss can be. It still hurts. I am so glad you have those memories, and so sorry about the ones that were missed. It takes a strong person to realize though that there is still time with others and those moments can be documented. I commend you and your bravery!
Joshua Pheneger - Thank you, while it hurts to lose someone – it also shows us what, and who, is important to us. I am doing my best to make sure I honor them and not take for granted those who are still with me.
Rocio Martinez - Okay, before I even start watching the video I want to say that I want to cry. My throat is in knots and my heart is sore. As you may or may not have seen me publish, my grandfather passed away last Monday. I was told about the news two days after. He lived in my home country of Puerto Rico and luckily, I was able to visit him one last time this past October. I am still deeply saddened and in total disbelief. I was not ready for that to happen. He was the one that would last to 100. His death was the first event that inspired me to create an image expressing my feelings. I had never done that before. If you ever wish to see it – it’s here: http://wp.me/p3UZdC-3G
I also want to say that I sort of understand what you are going through. My grandmother had exactly the same diseases as your mother and she died of that at an early age. When she was diagnosed with that, the doctor told her she would only live a couple more years and that was when she was about 20 years old. She died at age 72. Because of her love and faith, she was able to enjoy more time on this earth with us. The last couple of years of her life she spent at my mother’s home, bedridden. Yet, we had her. However, we were not ready for that either. There is always a hope that things will get better. That things will change. That miracles will happen.
Okay, now I’m off to watch the video.
brookeshaden - Oh Rocio I am so sorry to hear that 🙁 How terrible, as all passings are, but when it is unexpected..My heart breaks for you.
Rocio Martinez - Thanks.
Rocio Martinez - Your mother is an incredibly beautiful woman. That image is perfect. It depicts the beauty of her spirit!
The video is amazing. It’s filled with beauty and soul. Your feelings and love for your mother really shine through.
I, too, worry about losing my mother and my father. They are both young at age but have gone through so much and have so many physical things going on that it’s always scary. My mom has atrial fibrillation and she get’s really tough episodes all the time. It’s really scary. My father has diabetes among other things. He is a physician and the worst part is that he knows for a fact that he will lose his legs in a few years. How scary and sad is that?
I wish all the good luck in the world to your family and especially our mother. It’s definitely important to imprint their spirits before they pass. I believe that those that pass are still with us, yet we cannot touch or see them. Do like I once did with my grandmother. I laid by her side and held her hand. I felt the warmth of her body and promised myself I would never forget that moment and that it would always be imprinted in my mind. It’s been 5 years and I haven’t forgotten her warmth, nor her hands, nor that moment.
Avital - You are an inspiration to me Brooke! I feel like I know you
thank you for everything you do, for every word, thought, and for being such a kind beautiful person!
brookeshaden - Thank YOU so much, you’ve brightened my day 🙂
Menna Hossam - This is beyond beautiful! I just wanted you to know that you TRULY inspire me and that I wish I could be as half good as you are 🙂 <3
brookeshaden - Menna, thank you! But remember that you can be better than that – you can be as good as you allow yourself to be <3
Margherita Introna - Oh Brooke, I cannot even begin to explain how much I have been touched by your series “Before they pass…” Your work always seems to have a profound effect on me, but this series goes so much deeper for me. On 14 February 2013 I lost my father suddenly. There was no chance for goodbyes. The shock was unbearable. Six months later my brother died in my arms from a brain tumour – and even though the time between diagnoses and his passing was just a mere 6 weeks, it gave us time together that I will forever treasure. As hard as it was to see him like that and as scared as I was to see him die, it was such an honour to have been there. I am crying so much now as I type through my tears… but one thing I want to share with you is that in his last few days as I sat by his side and held his hand and cared for him, I took a few snaps with my cellphone of us together and of our hands… I have never shown these to anyone and nobody knew I took them. I can barely look at them still, but for me who sees life in images… these images are so close to my heart and I know I will need to cling onto them when I am ready <3
May you still have many beautiful memories with your mother and family. This series and the insight it has brought you will be of much comfort to you… take the time and treasure it. Sending you much love and light… <3 xx
brookeshaden - Oh Margherita, you have *me* in tears. I am so sad for you but so glad to know you have some images to cherish. Thank you for sharing – in that strange way that death can inspire, you have inspired me – to do more, shoot more, cherish more….love more. Thank you for being you, and you are in my thoughts.
Alicia Raft - Oh Brooke, this was so emotional! Besides being gorgeous, this image and video have heart and soul.
I’m really proud of you starting this project. I think it’s amazing how like your mother you are. You both seem selfless and full of love. You radiate positive energy and just seeing this brightened my day!
Hope that today brings you many smiles. 🙂
brookeshaden - Alicia, thank you so much. You’ve brought tears to my eyes <3
Denise - Brooke, your Mother’s Light and graceful Spirit is reflected so purely in this beautiful image. The photography you so artfully create, inspires us not only to express ourselves as the photographer, but coax out the dreams and fantasies of others before our lens. I have found that moments shared during photography can sometimes eclipse the purpose, as well as the final image, when one’s essence is willingly revealed.
The Love and Security you offered your parents, which created this opportunity for their soulful expression, is a gift that shows your strength and gentleness combined. So great of you to share this moment, the video of your thoughts, and encourage others to create an image of those they love. I lost my Mother two years ago. I remember whispering to her before she passed… “Find a way to talk with me”. And she has, in a way that makes me laugh and find comfort in knowing she is just an ‘inner smile’ away. May your Mother dance long upon this earth and forever in the comfort of your heart.
P.S. I was able to photograph a special moment when my Mother’s Spirit brightly pierced through the stormy haze of Alzheimer’s … and I am so thankful.
brookeshaden - Denise, that is such a beautiful story that aches and inspires. Thank you so much for sharing, I will not soon forget it.
Denise Neale Jensen - Oops, left my second reply under Chandra’s post by accident – please see below.
Chandra Achberger - I have no words. (okay I have a few) Simply WONDERFUL! Every single second is a gift.
brookeshaden - Thank you so much Chandra xoxo
Denise Neale Jensen - Thank you Brooke. An image of fighting through jumbled layers of one’s mind to connect with someone – even if for just a moment, is a project I’d like to explore.
Ashley - I cried while watching this, I’ve often wanted to photograph those I love especially my parents but have always been too reserved to do so and this reminds me of why I felt so passionately to do so.
brookeshaden - Thank you so much for writing Ashley – I hope that you can share a moment with them through your lens, and if not, that you have beautiful memories xoxox
Jacs - I photographed my fathers decline from Parkinson’s and Dementia prior to his health. It was one of the most important times in my life. I’m glad you are doing this project now.
Karen Johnson - What a beautiful, beautiful image, story and tribute to your Mom!
mindy wilson - Brooke, you are so right-on about making connections that really mean something. It’s been six months since Ron’s son Andrew died and we still talk about him daily and see reminders of him in so many places. He’s still a such a big part of our lives but we miss his voice, his laugh and the way he saw the world and especially his big spirit of love and gratitude. He’s taught me so much about how to live in this world. And so have you. If you have a minute watch this video and meet Andrew. Love, Mindy
brookeshaden - I absolutely love it Mindy – brought tears to my eyes <3
Lisa Lizarraga - I ask myself on a yearly basis: “If i were to die tomorrow what would i regret?” that question helps me to put so much in perspective. I now spend almost all my time pursuing my passions and loving the ones i love. I have finally learned what is most important in my life and what is not. At this point in my life there is finally a good answer to my question…nothing.
Mickael Fjaere - so beautiful Brooke, I always tell my mom how I feel and how much I love her, I also do some tributes to her time to time… life is so unpredictable and fragile… just cried watching this… thanks for sharing… Its so important to show how we feel, both ways… you are truly an inspiration, not just as an artiste, but has a person… A big hug, Mickael
Linda - Thank you for this reminder