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where there’s a will…

When my sister died everything happened suddenly.  I got a call in the middle of the night.  Was told to pack and get to Ohio.  I scrambled around my room wondering what to pack for a coma.  I contemplated bringing my violin.  A silly thought I had about “playing her awake.”  But she was gone before I left for the airport.

There were so many things I wish I could have said or done.  I would give anything to have just one item on that list.

And now here I am with my Nana and Grandpa’s health failing right in front of me.  It all started sort of suddenly with a single fall, and since then has been slow and painful.  At this moment Grandpa is suffering from pneumonia, and can’t help himself cough because of broken bones.  There will be no heroic measures this time.  So we are waiting hopefully, but are aware that this…well…we’re aware.  He might be aware, too.

I know he knows how much I love him.  I’ve done my best to remind him over the last couple of years.  But it’s breaking my heart that I can’t be there right now.  He is in an ICU unit, but the nurse let me talk to him on speaker.  He couldn’t really talk, but I reminded him just how predictable he is.  I already knew everything he would say if he could.

Last night I got an idea.  Everyone else was debating and posturing and cheering and booing during the Presidential Debate.  Me?  I was in the bathtub with my violin.  Looking dissheveled because our A/C is out and we had 85% humidity.  Missing an earring (this is a violin habit – too silly to explain).  A decade or so out of practice.  But I knew my Grandpa could care less how squeaky or out of tune I was or how many notes I missed.

This video is for him, but I’m sharing it with you.  In the past I’ve been grateful I shared; I’m wondering if this could spark an idea for any of you living long distance from a loved one.

I hit every limb on the Ugly Tree with this piece.  Whatever.  I recorded it with my phone, sent it to my mom, and she was able to play it for him on her Ipad this morning.  He loved it.

***I should mention that I picked Humoresque for a reason.  Everyone always loved playing it in Suzuki recitals.  But I remember my teacher once describing the different parts to it as something along the lines of a sunny day, peaceful day, storm, and then light on the other side.  This seemed fitting.

And for good measure, I went ahead and recorded something even shorter.  In case his attention span was short.  In case it was easier to download.  In case…I don’t know.  I’m a little type A.  I have backup plans for everything.  So I also sent a couple of silly Irish jigs.  Equally squeaky and out of tune.  So I’ll spare you.

Jan Rake Hernandez - For the record, Crys, Dad’s nurse asked who was playing the music she overheard. When I said it was my daughter, her eyes got big – she thought it was a recording.. You know.. A professional :) so hush about the squeaks. I love that you did this for my Daddy.

JennyandAdam Walsh Roberts - So sweet…brought a tear to my eye. If only….

Miriam Lou Shears Tharnish - Just precious. I pinned it.

Asher Diehl Muscat - :’-)

Jenny Vogt - This made me weep. This is so beautiful, so thoughtful and so many other things that are not coming to me at this moment. I also have family that lives far away and I can only imagine how touched a relative would be. Such an amazing way to bring joy to someone and maybe even a parting gift. Amazing! Thank you for the inspiration.

cling to me.

I’m glad she’s not afraid.  I really am.  There have been times in the past couple of years that she’s struggled with worry.  Biting her nails, asking me a ton of “what ifs.”  And I suppose there will still be those days.  But today – her first day of the school year – she was just plain excited.  So excited, in fact, that she almost flew out the door.  I mean, I had my camera ready and this was all I could catch.  She was that fast.  I almost couldn’t believe it.  I guess I had expected her to cling to me, just a little.

I grabbed my camera thinking, “I’ll catch her walking up the drive to school.”

That small figure to the right – that’s Evyn, charging confidently up the walkway, nearly breaking into a run.  I almost didn’t get a snapshot.  She had scooted away just as quickly as her flight from the car.  After an entire summer of days waking up with her and seeing her through the entire day start to finish, there it was: 8:00 a.m.  An empty seat in the kiddo-wagon.

I wanted to sit there and pause to catch my breath.  But carpool lanes don’t work like that.  So I cried all the way home.

You would think I was sending her to college, not the first day of second grade.  Second grade – not even technically a milestone of any sort.  Which might be what made it harder.  To see into the future a bit and realize that it’s going to keep going on like this, pomp and circumstance or not  – they are going to keep getting older and I might never get used to it.  I’ll be proud.  I’ll be grateful.  But letting go, little by little, will always come with a bit of heartbreak.

I couldn’t wait to pick her up later that day, find out how her day went.  Clearly I was more invested in this whole moment than she was because most answers to my questions were met with a quizzical look and “I don’t know, Mom.  It’s only my first day.”  And there it was.  A reminder that this is just one day.  And if I spend too many moments being sad about the twenty hundred days from now, I might completely miss the fun of the Meantime.

So I’m going to take deep breaths and make the Meantime count.

Jenna - Ahhh memories of the first day of school — glad she charged into second grade like a champ!

Jenna - PS – I love the shot with the toothless smile! So appropriate for second grade!

Jan Rake Hernandez - What’ll you do when it’s time for college? You’ll remember how smothered you felt when I had trouble leaving you at college, how excited you were for me to go home and for you to start life as “an independent adult”….. and how quickly you ran to me when you had that first fender-bender “on your own” :) We never stop needing our moms – even when we think we have – life eventually reminds us how irreplaceable they are in our hearts and lives. Right now I’m going through the reverse… watching my mom go back through stages, so hers is the independent-back to dependant process, and it’s just as heart-rending. Change. You and I aren’t fans :) I think the lesson is to cherish relationships, embrace our loved ones, for eventually they all end in this life.

the way we were. (rocky mount, nc photographer)

Not too long ago I invited a photographer to come stay with my family for a couple of days.  Basically, to follow me around and photo journal a typical weekend with my family.  I had asked a couple of families some years ago if they had ever considered doing it, hoping they would let me tag along to photograph their daily-ness.  I mostly got strange looks.  Regardless, I thought it was important for MY failing memory to have such images – images to remind me of the way we were.  And I was SO blessed beyond measure by those images.  So much so that I crossed my fingers that someone would hire me to do the same for them.

Bingo.  Just days after my own session, I got the chance to meet and work with someone who had followed my personal blog.  Another one of those the internet-turned-real-life opportunities.  Interestingly, this was something she was looking for.  Casual but pointed pictures of an evening with her family of three (plus pup).

And again one of those times I get to meet an uber-cool couple.  At times I had to remember I was the photographer, not the guest for dinner.  Because they were that fun.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for the chance to meet you and photograph all those giggles.  I know these will be a treat to flip through some important day down the road. 

Amy Boring - looooove it!

Elizabeth Cayton - I’ve already said it in text, but just so it’s here for all to see – thank you, thank you, thank you! I love these images & will forever cherish them. they bring tears to my eyes they are so beautiful! it was such a pleasure welcoming you into our home! thank you – I love them!

in real life. (durham, nc, photographer)

For some reason I have recently been lucky enough to meet a couple of people who know me not through photography first, but through my writing at my former internet home – My Longest Year.   Margot is a fellow blogger and military wife who was sweet enough to comment and check in on me and my blog fairly regularly.  When she said she would be visiting her sister nearby I jumped at the chance to get to meet her and work with her family.  And what a fun and photogenic bunch they turned out to be!  (Margot, please tell your sister she has no right looking so cute in a dress just a few weeks after giving birth.)


Thank you for reaching out, Margot!  Next time you’re in North Carolina, we’ll make it a Starbucks date for sure.

you’ve got a friend. (Rocky Mount, NC, photographer and lucky duck)

This is Erin.  A friend I worked with and lived around the corner from for three years when James was stationed at Fort Drum, New York over 10 years ago.  Erin is loyal.  Faithful.  Naive sometimes.  I love her for all of that.  When James was deployed to Iraq the first time, we had no clue what lie ahead of us.  J was a Chemical Officer – an expertise that the Army was short on at the time – and we were facing what was called a chemical threat.  The night of the first bombings, I sat on my couch and cried.  Erin called me within minutes.  She invited me over to dinner and kept an open-door policy for the entire time he was gone.  She was there to guard and defend me when working in a TV station, surrounded by  the first-ever televised war, was getting to me.  She was there for so many things.

Some time after James came back I went through some weird major depression, completely unrelated to the war or any other reasonable explanation.  I got to a point where my anxiety attacks were so frequent and debilitating that one morning I was unable to get dressed after an hour of trying.  She was there in ten minutes and she was there for me any time I needed to talk the whole thing through.  Years later when we were stationed in Washington, and James had left for Iraq a second time, she flew – across the country – to visit me.  She said it was the least she could do.  I don’t know about that…I don’t think everyone is lucky enough to have friends who go to such lengths.  I wonder if I would.

I have been lucky – no, BLESSED beyond measure – to have such friends in my life.  Friends who are loyal, faithful, who understand my quirks and love me anyway.  I am fiercely protective of my close friends.  Maybe it’s the “sister” in me that knows to appreciate and care for a great girlfriend.  I count all of these friends as a sister of sorts.

It’s been ten years and six kids between us.  Recently Erin and I got to meet up on her way to the beach.  Here are a couple of crappy iPhone pics of us doing the White Girl Duckface:

She asked me to bring my camera when I drove up to the beach to see her.  I wanted to do something for her that says “Thank you for who you are.  I’m so happy for  you and the family you’ve created.”

Erin – much love to you and your family.  Thanks for your friendship.  XO, Crystal.

Jan Rake Hernandez - LOVE this! And I love how you made a story board for each child – priceless! When they get older, they (and their wives) will each treasure these <3 I want to also add MY thanks to Erin, for being there for Crystal when I couldn't be. For loving my girl with the unconditional love of Jesus. For being the woman of God that you are. Love u! <3

Erin Bradley Beck - Thank You:) You two need to stop making me cry:) I miss her so much, I didn’t want our last visit to end. Meeting Ashlyn and Cam for the first time was so awesome. Our kids had so much fun together, we are definately going to do a vacation together hopefully next summer.