EDITORS NOTE: Regularly scheduled for this past Monday, The Fife’s article was moved to today due to the circumstances. I feel thier story is an important one not only for parents of children, but for photographers wanting to capture the moment.
10 years ago i pushed the shutter down on a Canon AE-1 film camera for the first time. Over the years, I have loved spending time with people–both friends and clients, recording their life with my camera. I love my children, and i love taking pictures of them as well. Who knew all these years later my life would change in an instant.
Thursday, September 16th, my son went into urgent care and diagnosed with an ear infection. He hadn’t been doing well, but his condition didn’t improve as it usually does with ear infections. Three days later he went into the ER and was admitted, and two days later he was transferred up to Children’s Hospital. I have never had to deal with something so unknown, relatively prolonged, and so immediate as the endangered health and well-being of my child.
From a laughing-walking-charming baby to a comatose-limp-doll baby lying on the hospital bed hooked up to tubes and cords, the reality was just too unreal for me to believe. I had no idea what i would face as they continued to not find any answers. So I did the only thing i could do: record it with my camera, and pray. I didn’t know how these puzzle pieces would fit together, and what the ending puzzle would even look like, but i had to create them. It was therapy for me, and i found solace in it. Day after day with test after test, and still we had no answers.
Suddenly all those stories of children with diseases and sicknesses were no longer just stories. One friend sent a link to a blog with the top photo of a child who had contracted bacterial meningitis, and now one of the side effects for this blonde toddler made his eyes face different directions. I didn’t want to have to handle facing that possible reality. We didn’t know if our son had that kind of meningitis, or if he would fully recover. Those were real people, as real as my son. Why did it take first hand experience to get me to care about their difficulties? Have you ever thought, “that could never happen to me” when you heard those stories?
Well… it can.
Over the past week have found that people have responded to the images I have created– some close friends and family couldn’t even bear to watch the webcams and look at pictures. Those were scary days and hours for us.
Fortunately, it looks like we’re going to have a happy ending to our story. They still aren’t sure if it was a mild viral infection, or early stages of bacterial meningitis. Either way he is slowly improving, and building his lost muscle mass back. He may not have long-lasting effects; and for that, I am grateful with all my heart. I was prepared for much worse.
But as i said, my life was changed in an instant. Here is what I’ve learned:
1. Family First:
Family is much more important than we often let it be. I will choose to snuggle more, even when there are piles of laundry waiting, and client orders to fill. I will make hot chocolate and let my toddler pour the powder in, even if it spills on my clean counter. I will breathe deeply into by baby’s neck and try not to count the seconds as they slip away.
2. Spend time on what matters most:
Don’t let a death be the only thing that can pull you away from projects, over-packed schedules, continual late work nights, and constant busyness. If there’s something you really want to do, make it happen. You’ll live with less regrets that way. Find a moment when you can breathe, just breathe. Clarity about life comes easier with distractions farther from you.
3. Record Life:
I needed to record the whole process as part of my life, as difficult as it was. This is my life, and perhaps these would have been our final moments. These images would have been even more priceless to me: those last memories of feeling my baby breathing. Whatever they were, I wanted them remembered forever. Don’t put it off. Go sit in front of your webcam or hold up your phone if you don’t have anything else. Record yourself with your family or friends today– any moment could be your last and they can cherish that record. Words, pictures, video. Just do it.
4. We are not in control:
As much as we would like to determine our life as if it were a M.A.S.H. game, we don’t know what’s going to happen. I personally believe in God, and I believe He has answered so many prayers said by friends and family in our behalf. He has given us comfort and strength through this difficult experience, and my faith is even greater than before. I have spiritually and emotionally grown through the last 2 weeks, and I look forward to what he would teach me in the future. For those who do not believe in God, you still have to admit you cannot control all things. There seems to be some kind of power/calm/peace that comes when we learn to just let go. Whatever power there is, we can let go and trust that life will lead us where we need to go.
Amber & Dustin Fife are a husband & wife photography duo out of Norman Oklahoma. Each month they will be sharing tips on becoming better, succesful photographers. You can learn more about them at http://www.fuelyourphotography.com/featured-interview-fife-photography/