I got an email the other evening from my sister’s friend Michaela. I’ve known Michaela since she played waterpolo with my sister back in high school and she’s one of the sweetest and most caring people ever. Her email was buried under my daily pile, but as I scanned it, I had to stop and really read. This email was one you never want to get and my heart dropped as I read. She said her boyfriend, her high school sweetheart, had just been diagnosed with stage 3 testicular cancer and was to begin chemo therapy that next week. She wanted to know if I would be able to do some portraits of them before the chemo started it’s rough course on his body. My response? “Of Course.”
As I drove to meet them on the afternoon of the shoot, I thought about my job as a photographer. I thought about the real importance of photos, the weight of what I do, and how it’s imperative that we’re fully present in moments like this. Life is not guaranteed, health is not promised. Photos are not so much about trends or technique or popularity as much as they’re about live moments captured for all time. It’s easy to get caught up in the proper technique, popular poses, or cute props. And on a wedding day especially, it’s so easy for everyone involved to move too quickly and not take enough time to fully appreciate the raw beauty that is love. As the popular chick flick “Love Actually” says so perfectly…. Love Actually is….. all around us.
I pulled into the park and met beautiful Michaela, who had spent the morning getting beautified with Danyell Weinberg, and sweet Greg. I had never met Greg before, but upon meeting him that day, there were a few things I noticed instantly. He’s a smiler because he’s a happy guy. He’s young, but has loved Michaela for a long time. And he’s sharp.
As we walked and shot, we talked a bit and I got to know Greg… and I also got to know Greg with Michaela as a couple. Together, they’re so much fun… and you can see their love has settled deep in their hearts as best friends who’ve been through many seasons, yet still find peace and passion in one another. Because of the circumstances, I noticed a heightened sense of purpose and intentional affection they showed each other and it warmed my heart. They laughed truly, they embraced with their whole selves, and they breathed in the magic of the present time together…. truly a shoot to remember.
Greg told me his story, about how he was just doing life as normal and how the small random lump on his neck turned into a worrisome clue to a deeper problem…. and Michaela chimed in from time to time to color in details. He described how from the lump in his neck, doctors discovered more and more lumps, some in his neck, some in his abdomen. There were body scans, and and MRI’s, appointment after appointment, and the news. I’m sure there was and continues to be grieving involved, but in that moment on the trail, he appeared so strong. He has hope….. as he should. I am in awe of Greg’s courage…. and I admire Michaela’s support greatly.
Now, I’d like to share some images from their shoot with you. I tried my best to be a mirror for Greg and Michaela, reflecting the depth of their love and their courage amidst a scary scary time with the purpose of trapping these joyful moments for all time….. and to share their story with you so you can join them in the fight. If you’d like to read more, you can visit Greg’s Caring Bridge site here. He’s also in the process of building a separate website where there will be a paypal account linked. You can find that site in progress here. Cancer treatment is not only brutal on the body, but it’s brutal on a family’s finances. So if you feel led, please make a donation and/or leave Greg an encouraging note or prayer through either one of his websites. Even if you don’t know him in real life, notes, prayers, encouragements, and donations are the things that can make a significant impact on his healing story. Join with me, stand by his side, cover him in prayers, and let him know people all over the world are lifting him up.
And now, the photos….
Greg, thanks for modeling faith amidst trials….. and for your bravery. Michaela, thank you for your intentionality and support. To both of you…. I came into our time broken hearted about the circumstances in which we three met, but I left hopeful and uplifted because of you two. I admire you two so much, and I’m counting down the days until we do another shoot to celebrate your victory and health.
I can’t wait.