A moment I will never forget.
I often get calls from Phoenix Children's hospital to photograph special events. I go, I shoot the pictures, I process them and then, I send them off for whatever use the hospital may have. This call wasn't supported to be any different. The hospital needed me to capture shots of the launch of their revamped emergency center. A pretty standard undertaking.
Then, I met this little guy...
He was being pulled around in a wagon by some older gentleman. His grandfather, I later learned.
The minute I squatted down in front of the kid to take his photo, he gleamed. Unfortunately, I couldn't say the same for grandpa. Grandpa's face was worn and worried. It clearly showed real love and concern. The moment was short-lived. I had a ton to do, so I had to move on. In total, I shot about 1200 images that day. By the end of it all I was tired and ready to go home.
Typically, I stage my gear in a room out of the limelight. As a photographer, you work in the midsts of people. You try to blend in without becoming a distraction. More often than not, if you have done your job well, you go unnoticed.
After packing my bag and loading my gear, I began the trek to the parking garage. It just so happens that while I was waiting for the elevator to come to the base level, the grandpa was standing there next to me. He tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I could send him any images I took of his grandson. "Of course," I responded. We exchanged information.
Along with this chance meeting at the elevator, it turned out we were also parked on the same floor. As our conversation continued, it became evident that this man was a man of faith. Sometimes, you know by talking with someone, the depth and sincerity of a person's belief. Here, it was clear.
Eventually, we both went on our separate ways. I ended up sending the grandpa those photographs. We exchanged a few text messages, but I assumed our interactions were pretty much over. Turns out, this wasn't the case.
I got the call about a week after the Phoenix Children's Hospital event. Grandpa had an update.
The little guy was suffering from a brain tumor. Hearing this, I recalled my own experience with a brain tumor. The physical strain. The trauma. I'd been a grown man and I almost hadn't survived. The little guy had been admitted to children's hospice, where it was believed that he only had a short time left to live.
For some reason, I'm still not quite sure why, the grandpa had felt led to call me up. To ask me if I could come by the hospital to meet the little guy's family. After getting that call, I talked with my wife, wondering if I should go. It felt awkward. I hardly knew these people.
In the end, I opted to g. For some reason I felt like I owed it to grandpa. I'm so grateful that I went.
That meeting was an event that I will never forget. The family was gathered around the bed where the little guy was sleeping and breathing heavy. The family greeted me with big, genuine hugs. In that moment time seemed to stand still.
In reality, I only stayed for a brief time. We all prayed together, and I exited, quietly.
As I walked to my car, I thought of the look I'd seen on the faces of that little guy's family. In that moment, I felt such a deep love for him. I imagined being a parent in a hospital room with one of my own children. Dying. I cannot describe the feeling grief this thought brought about.
The moment I got to the car I broke down and wept. Like a child.
I never want to forget that feeling of grief.
I have the picture of that little guy in my office to this day. The photo's message changes every time I look at it. But, the one thing that keeps coming back to me, is that attitude of joy the little guy had when I met him. He was living in the moment. Even in the face of death.
He reminds to be grateful for all I have. That nothing in life is certain. The moment I met him is definitely a moment I will never forget.