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Words to Live By | Norfolk Family Photographer

It is a rainy day here in Virginia Beach.  I would like to share some personal thoughts here on the blog. Don’t be shy- I am feeling a little over-exposed here, so if you are so inclined to let me know you are reading this… please feel like you can.


On April 12, 1997, I was 25 years old when my father took his last breath.  I was angry. I was bewildered. I was speechless. I sit here with tears streaming down my cheek… the tears take the same path each time. If I had not been living prior to that moment, I had a crash course in it that tragic day.

They were 20 and 21 at their June wedding.

My professional dance career came to a screeching halt, daily crosswords became my vice. I sat depressed, scanning the Chesapeake bay for answers, awaiting my mother’s return from work.  I had left home my sophomore year of high school, been living on my own for ten years. Thought I had achieved my dreams… and I had.  But for what?  To see my family a handful of times a year?  To have my parents & sister patiently waiting backstage after a Saturday night show, so that we could grab a super late dinner, force them to replay every single step, as if that was even possible… only for them to drive the two hours home.  Instead of feeling like I had achieved something, I sat in his recliner, at a house I never really knew, feeling like I had missed everything.

Chronic pain developed over my breastbone… after a few days, it hurt to breathe. It seemed to come regularly, it was a lot of pressure.  I saw many doctors, had various adjustments, and after a few weeks it eased off.  After a few years, I noticed not how it would happen- but when.  It would quietly enter mid-March, get really horrible around March 31st (the same day he was rushed to the ER)… then begin to wane.

During those early years, the final two weeks of his life replayed constantly… a recurring nightmare… except I never woke up.  I’d go over the final days with a fine-tooth comb, knit-picking e-v-e-r-y little moment, wondering what if? If I’d been more aware, stronger, something… anything…just… I don’t know… just more. Those days still sound like heavy rain pounding on a tin roof in my brain.

I watched my mother, my sister.  I watched his father, his sister…many friends of the family…doctors.  He was my person, my family,  my people… As I watched each of them deal (or not exactly deal) with something SO not even close to being in any of our control, I realized that this one person was one step away from each of us.  Our  lives quite varied,  he was this groups common bond.  He was the center, he was our role model, we each needed him and we each stood an arms reach away… Had it been a dance, we would have made a star.

I am about 9 years old here, same age as my oldest daughter, Bella.

It is 2013, and the dreaded month is here.  The annual physical pain no longer forces the same pressures onto my heart… In some ways, its absence scares me altogether.  Perhaps because my life is now so full, in joining with my amazing husband and creating our four special people.  I try to look back and understand what they (my parents) went through raising us… how they taught me, and was it effective?  David and I do a decent job ad-libbing in our never-rehearsed show.  We periodically tell the kids that we really have no idea what we are doing.  (What I want to scream is, “How come no one can make ME a peanut butter and jelly!!!???? When did I become the parent???!!”) 

Then I think if “my people” each raised their arms, one step away from me… we would make a star.

I heard an inspiring talk the other night on the topic of being parents as role models.  One has the ability to make a change, to make a difference in a child’s life no matter how young or how old.  You are the parent until you are no longer the parent… and a child can always learn from the parent.  It doesn’t really matter if you can’t teach an old dog… because we are not dogs.  It is not too late! We are their whole world…

It is never too late… unless, of course, it is too late.

Here I am about 3, and my father must be about 29.

Ironically, my elderly dog, Sofi, just came up to me and gently nudged me with her nose… she hasn’t done that in a long time.


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jane - Love you

Alene - Oh Elyse – He would be sooo incredibly proud of you and all that you have accomplished. He has left his imprint on our world in so many ways. His memory is a blessing to all of us who knew and loved him and I love seeing his reflection in your wonderful children and in the values you have embraced.

Andi - No words spoken were ever more true, or more beautiful, Elyse!

Bec - totally moved!! I love your voice, gorgeous

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