Incorporating a Mother’s Memory
Portrait sessions for high school seniors can be such an exciting time. It’s one of the last times in their lives, for many, that they have a portrait session where the focus is completely on them. Making sure they feel special, have the perfect outfits, pick the right location, and so on. Their sessions are about capturing their spirit and personality during this important time in their lives…the end of an important chapter of their lives as they begin a new journey into their adult lives.
For many high school seniors, their mother is there every step of the way, after all, this is a big day for them as well. For Hannah, 2018 senior, this was not the case. Hannah’s mother, Cheryl, lost her battle with cancer 7 years ago, when Hannah was only 10 years old. Of course Hannah had her father by her side for her senior session and he was great. He offered moral support, carried Hannah’s clothes, and even helped us create wind to help Hannah’s scarf fly…but the absence of Hannah’s mother was unmistakeable.
Hannah and I talked before her session about the loss of her mom. She shared that she was very close to her mom. Her father worked out of town a lot when she was little and she always had her mom there. She said her mom was her best friend, the kind of woman that if you needed something, she would do whatever she could to help you…even when she was battling her own illness. Hannah described her mom as one of the strongest women she ever knew and said she was her hero. The pride and love Hannah has for her mom is so strong and very heartwarming.
In the short time I had to get to know Hannah, it was obvious to me that she has a lot of her mother in her. She is such a sweet, kind and beautiful young lady with big blue eyes and a radiant smile, very much like her mother’s which I noticed when looking through pictures Hannah shared with me. Hannah is very caring, especially when she talked about her dad and brother. Her story touched my heart deeply. It was really important to Hannah, and to me as well after hearing her story, that we incorporate her mother into her senior session.
I had Hannah tell me more about her mom, her favorite things, pictures, memories, places to go, even her favorite color, which was orange. We both agreed that we wanted the inclusion of her mom to be subtle. We agreed to focus on her mother’s favorite color. Hannah found a beautiful orange scarf that she brought along to her senior session to represent her mom.
Throughout the session, we found different ways to use the scarf, some shots with the scarf simply wrapped around Hannah’s neck as if was a hug from her mother, to shots of Hannah letting the scarf blow in the breeze, as if being kissed by her mother’s touch. It was emotional for both Hannah and her dad because they both miss her so much. Hannah said her dad was sad because he missed her mom so much, but also sad for Hannah that she didn’t have her mother there for this special occasion. As a photographer, I was truly touched and could feel their family’s love and heartache as well. I do believe, however, it was also joyous and as simple as it sounds, having that scarf present was like her mom’s spirit and love was there with us. The sun was shining down on Hannah and her dad that morning like only a mother’s love can shine.
I asked Hannah if she had any thoughts or feelings she wanted to share. Her response was that she wants any teens to think before they tell their parents that they hate them or do not want them as their parents because you can’t imagine what it’s like to not have them in your lives once they’re gone. I think Hannah’s message is very clear…all of us should treasure the parents we have.
I recently lost my mother, which made writing this story even more important to me. You truly don’t realize the void that losing a parent leaves in your heart. I hope this story inspires anyone who reads it, especially teenagers, to take the time to let your parents know that you love them and appreciate all they do for you.
Hannah said her mom will always be her hero and she will always be her guardian angel. Even though she isn’t here with her in real life, she know she’s always by her side. I now know exactly how she feels and couldn’t have said it better myself.
I want to send a huge thank you to Hannah for letting me share her story and to her wonderful dad for all his help as well.