When Photos Are All You Have Left :: A Personal Post

I follow a fun and sassy lady on facebook who goes by Missy MWAC. I’ve always enjoyed her posts about the photography industry. They are tongue and cheek, silly, and good for a laugh.

Missy has posted this personal photo of hers with a text overlay several times since I began following her a few years ago. I’ve always just scrolled by.

But these days,  this quote and photo hits me like a ton of bricks.

On October 13th of 2015, we lost my father in law after a long and courageous battle with a rare form of cancer.

All of a sudden, every photo I had ever taken of him, every photo from his childhood, every photo shared by friends and relatives seemed so much more important. More meaningful. And I remembered all the times I almost took a photo and I didn’t.


My father in law in his favorite place on earth, his cabin in North Carolina


This July we were able to do something my father in law always wanted- to have all of his kids, all of their spouses and all of his grandchildren come to his cabin (that he had just finished building months before his diagnosis) in North Carolina at the same time. What you have to realize that “all” of us equals 18 people. And we live all across the country.


a few iPhone photos from our our cabin trip in July 2015

It was loud.
It was chaotic.
It was perfect.

I took a lot of photos on my iPhone of everyone playing games, taking in the amazing views on the back deck, and holding babies. We spent time grilling, playing cornhole, cards, and in beach chairs down by the lake. It was such a great time.

Two days into the trip, we had my friend and fellow photographer Beth come and take photos of the whole family. It’s a little more than miraculous that my friend Beth lives nearby. This cabin is in the middle of nowhere. Some of Beth’s family actually lives in the Frederick area and several years ago she hired me to photograph a family event of hers there. Three years later, here she was taking photos of my family on her home turf. Gotta love how the universe works.


Beth doing her magic with my mother and father in law and their children.

While Beth was taking the photos, I know that many of us were ready for it to be over. It was hot. It was humid. The kids were restless. But Beth just kept smiling and worked through many different groupings, making sure to get everything we wanted.

Three months after these photos were taken, Pops was gone. And all of a sudden, these photos were not just nice memories- they were priceless.

I know in the days leading up to the funeral, Joe and I looked at them a lot. I’m sure my sister in laws did, too.

At the funeral, two of those photos from the cabin were on easels at the front of the church.


© Beth Patton Studio


© Beth Patton Studio

Pops loved his family. His family was the #1 most important thing in his life. To have these photos… well, I just can’t say too much about it without tearing up. It’s the last time we were all together. It was the last time he was really feeling like himself.

Every year I get phone calls and emails from clients in need of photos ASAP. The photos I took are all they have left of someone they love.

And now here I am… and all of a sudden- I get it. I really, truly get it.

I thought I understood how important my career was. But now? Now I really know.

Whether you have someone like myself or Beth come and photograph your family, or you just have your iPhone, take the photos.

Take the photo even though you don’t have makeup on.

Take the photo even if you’re in a rush.

Take the photo even if you wish you had lost 15 pounds before vacation.

Take the damn selfie with them.

Just take it.

Because while it might not seem important now, just wait until it’s all you have left.

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