It's strange how the lives of others touch our own. If even for a brief, fleeting moment.
The other day a group of 12 people plus an infant came into the portrait studio for a family picture. I tend to stress out a little with a group this big, because it's hard to fit them all on the backdrop!
Not to mention the coordination of all eyes open, and mouths smiling all at once with that many faces!
The group was made up of Mom & Dad, their three grown children, their spouses and children. One couple has four kids, another has a 6 month old baby boy and the third couple doesn't have kids yet. So I took a picture of the whole group... miraculously fitting them onto the backdrop!
Then the grandparents with the grandkids, the grandkids alone... and then smaller family portraits. The couple with the baby wanted a couple pictures with just the two of them, along with a family photo with the baby. They were thrilled when I got the baby to smile for the photo.
Then I sat down at the computer monitor with the huge group to show them the pictures. You would have thought it was the Fourth of July, the way they were oohing and aahhing.
Nothing makes me happier than people who love their photos!
It was at about this time that I learned... the reason they got the whole family together for portraits is that the oldest son, father of the 6 month old baby, is leaving on December 3rd for Iraq.
These are the pictures he will take with him to the war zone.
These are the pictures that will be tucked in his breast pocket, next to his heart.
These are the pictures his family will stare at while they miss him so deeply on Christmas eve and Christmas day and every day until he comes home.
In the absolute worse case scenario... these may be the last pictures taken of him.
Suddenly the responsibility of this job hits me. What an honor.
I'm the person entrusted with the task of capturing their family memories. I'm so pleased that the entire group seemed to enjoy the photo session.
They bought a package of portraits to come from the lab, and as I rung up their order most of the large family dispersed to go find a restaurant nearby to eat. About four people remained to pay for the order, the soldier's brother and sister and their spouses.
When I told them the pictures are guaranteed back in the store by December 4th, probably earlier... they panicked. He's leaving on the 3rd.
Quick, can we print a couple photos here in the store so he can take them along?
I already rang the order... so I called my manager to figure out how to ring the studio prints.
He gave me instructions... don't ring them up.
I was so touched, and so pleased to print those pictures... put them in a frame and hand them to this soldier's family saying, "These are on us. Please tell him Thank You for serving."
Predictably, I couldn't say it without my voice cracking and my eyes welling up. His sister's lip started to quiver too.
These people are still strangers to me, but I'll be thinking about this family for a long time.
It's easy for so many of us to ignore this war and the impact it has on everyone around us.
I have friends in the Military. Each of them have been sent to Iraq or Saudi Arabia or some support island near the war zone.
They have all come back.
But I know many soldiers die over there every day. Part of me feels it must be those who touch my life briefly, that sacrifice the most.