We survived our family’s first holiday without our son. It was a long Thanksgiving weekend. It was a bit melancholy for me. My two youngest adult children helped my husband and me put up the Christmas tree and some decorations today. Almost all of the ornaments reminded us of our son. We laughed a little and said Bless It a lot.
Thanksgiving weekend, two years ago, was the last Thanksgiving that we all had together. I had been dreaming of getting a family portrait made for a while and the stars lined up perfectly with all of my kids in town. We had a portrait session on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. My kids were 27,24,21,and 18 at the time. The last time I had a portrait made of all of my kids was when they were 15,12,9,and 6.
It was a pretty fall afternoon. Everyone was in an agreeable mood and the photographer was so sweet and encouraging. She took pictures of the six of us, the six of us and two future daughters-in-law, the four kids, the boys with my husband, the boys with me, my daughter with my husband, my daughter with me, individual portraits. Basically, every combination that she could imagine.
The final product looked great. Everyone looked so handsome and pretty. Well, you know, everyone except me. Why did I wear that sweater? I never wear that sweater. Why did I wear those black leggings and those knee high boots? They cut my legs in half. My hair looked fuzzy because of the humidity. Plus, why didn’t anyone tell me that I needed some lowlights in my hair? Too much blond, girlie. See what I just did that every other mother does? I critiqued myself to death. I thought my kids and my husband looked so great but I picked myself to pieces. Why do we as mothers do that?
I ordered a 24×30 of the six of us and I have it hanging in my dining room. I bought an 8×10 of the family plus the two DIL’s. I bought 5×7’s of each of the four kids. I ordered 5×7’s of all of the other combinations. I have them all framed and scattered throughout the house. I love looking at them but I have been so critical of myself.
So here I am, two years later, and my oldest son passed away 7 weeks ago. I realize how incredibly lucky I am to have these absolutely gorgeous portraits that include him. I no longer look at those pictures and critique myself. Honestly, I look exactly like ME, for better or worse. But guess what? I have my arm around my son and now I don’t see my too blond hair and chopped up legs. I see me hugging my son and remembering how much fun we had as a family getting those photos. I see what a true treasure those portraits really are. I am thankful of the gift that my four kids were all in the same city at the same time. Those portraits are priceless to me. It’s so awful that it took losing one of my kids to realize that.
I LOVE those portraits and feel blessed beyond measure to have them. In December, when son #3 gets married, there is going to be a hole where Will should be. The final photos will show me smiling and happy for my son who is getting married but deep inside, I will be so very aware that there is a hole in those photos where my son should be. The final photo will look incomplete in my heart.
So for all of you mamas who are waiting for the perfect moment to get portraits done, the perfect moment is now. Today. You don’t need to get your hair cut and highlighted. You don’t need to go buy everyone matching outfits. You don’t need to wait until you lose 10 more pounds. All you need to do is call a photographer or a friend who can take a decent picture and take as many combinations of photos as you can. We are not promised tomorrow. We never know when one of those precious faces will no longer be here. One day there will be a hole in a picture that will feel just like the one in your heart.
Take the picture! Let me repeat that. TAKE THE PICTURE! You look fine. Your kids think you are beautiful because you love them. Your husband will love the picture because he knows he married the most beautiful woman, inside and out. Don’t wait. Do it now and be gentle with yourself. If you have a huge, loving smile with your arms wrapped around your family you will be beautiful even if you are in your jammies.
I love the photographs of my family. They are priceless and I treasure them for the gift that they are.
Peace and love to you all.
She writes about life, death, grief, and recovery.
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