Saturday, March 7, 2015
This is what love looks like... for better or for worse, in sickness and in health... in heaven or on Earth.
This past Friday night I received a text from a friend, one that changed the course of my evening, but changed the course of her whole life. The text read, "Doctor just came and said... hours...to days".
I cannot describe to you the emotions that came over me. My first thoughts were sadness, devastation, realization (we all knew this was coming), and honestly, a little bit of anger or at least questioning... Why should a 4 year old have to leave this Earth so soon? Why should we have to say goodbye to those much younger than ourselves? Why should I have to call my son down and ask him, "Do you want to go see her, or do you have peace? Do you feel like you have said your goodbyes?" I mean seriously, asking an 8 year old, if he has said his goodbyes to his 4 year old friend...it simply did not seem real or fair.
All I could do was pause, breathe, pray, breathe again, and remind myself. Whatever I was about to go through with Rowan, explaining this all to him, was nothing like my friend Jen was going through with her daughter Jalene. So my thoughts shifted. They became less about myself and Rowan, and ALL about the Salinas family. "What can I do?" , "How can I make this even remotely better?", "Where will my time be best served?"
Weeks ago I had arranged for a photographer to come take family portraits this coming Saturday for Jalene and her loved ones. However, when her Mom told me on Friday that there may just be hours left, I knew...I knew we had to make those photos happen sooner. I knew I couldn't get the photographer there so late at night on a moments notice, but I also knew that these pictures had to happen, and had to happen immediately. I asked Jen, "Do you want us to come tonight?" After talking to her own mother, she decided, "Yes, we don't want to miss this opportunity"
I called my own daughter, Zoe, at work and asked her what time she would be done working. It was a few hours away, but I told her, "She may not have much time. I will be there waiting to pick you up. I will bring your camera. We don't have much time. Is that ok?" Zoe agreed wholeheartedly of course, and that is what we did. I picked her up at work, after the longest 2 hours of my life (waiting, and praying that Jalene held on), and we headed South to San Antonio, to Jalene's house. I'm not going to lie, I cried most of the way. I wanted to get it out of my system... to be strong for their family...to be professional...even though I most certainly am not.
Once we arrived to their home, such a peace came over me though. This was no longer something Zoe and I just wanted to do for them. It was obvious that this was something we needed to do for them. These could be some of the most important photographs of their lives, capturing moments they would cherish forever. And I have never been more proud of my daughter. We spent the next 3 hours taking over 500 photographs of sweet, precious Jalene with her family, as they held her hand, kissed her cheek, talked to her, loved on her, and essentially said their own personal goodbyes. I cannot adequately describe how these moments felt. They embodied joy and pain. They were breathtaking and heart wrenching simultaneously. I've never felt so sad yet so happy at the same time. I knew that I was witnessing heaven on Earth.
I cannot share the photos that Zoe took, with you. Those will be given to Jalene's Mom and Dad. They deserve to see them first, and to share them when they are ready. What I do feel I can share with you is a select few candid photos that I took myself with my phone. They are not professional, high-quality photos, they are just from my camera phone, a few steps back from everything...but I believe they will give you a glimpse of what family means, and what I now believe, Heaven looks like.
Zoe took pictures of multiple generations of family members, one by one, spending their own special moments alone with Jalene. All ages, from her little brother Joshua to her grandparents and her great grandma. Close members of her family painted her little finger nails and toe nails; her baby brother started pretending to take pictures of Jalene himself, with his pretend camera, saying "Cheese, Jalene". It was all so touching, despite knowing the gravity and tragedy of the situation.
When the time is right, their family may decide to share the photos Zoe took, but for now, I pray these simple few that I took with my phone will bless you, give you perspective, and renew your faith in God and Family.
And if you ever wonder what love looks like...well, this is it...
To close this post, I wanted to share one more uniquely strange yet beautiful photo that I took that blessed evening. As a mother, I could not help but snap a picture when I saw this special moment between a mother and her fading child. A funny thing happened though. Zoe's flash went off right when I snapped my shot...and this was the result.
This is a completely unedited, wildly overexposed picture, that technically is a mistake shot, one that many may have deleted at first glance. Zoe's flash could have potentially ruined my shot. But, I did a double take. And if you ask me, this is an illustration of motherly love, and what I imagine is going to be the scene when Jen is reunited in Heaven with Jalene.
Sweet, strong, Jalene fought through the night and has continued to hold on still. Your prayers for peace and comfort for this angel, and for strength and peace for her family, are so very important during this difficult time, and are appreciated more than you know.
I myself received the blessing of my life near the end of this evening. I was kissing Jalene on her forehead, saying goodnight, telling her the kisses were from Rowan, when she opened her eyes.
I told her I loved her, and that I needed to take a kiss back to Rowan from her. She lifted her frail little hand to her lips and blew a kiss to me for Rowan. Tears streamed down my cheeks. I thanked her and told her I loved her again, to which she whispered, "Love you". My heart nearly burst. I asked her for one more selfie, and this is it...
Sweet dreams little one...
Thank you for showing us all how to live
and for your family showing us how to love...
We love you Jalene, our little butterfly!