Today I spent most of the afternoon with my friend of nearly 40 years and her family making arrangements for her father's funeral service tomorrow. This wonderful family has always treated me like their daughter or sister, and I desperately wanted to help them in any way that I could.
When I arrived at their home, my friend and her younger sister asked me to put together a photo collage to honor their father. He was a very accomplished man who had been honored in his profession at the highest levels for scientific innovation and achievement. That part, along with the obligatory family portraits, was the easy part of putting together the collage. However, most of us are not just defined by our achievements in our careers or our families. What really defines us and deferentiates us from one another is our personal lives.
Keeping that in mind, I took various photos and placed them in what I saw as a pleasing artistical arrangement, but one that emphasized this gentle giant of a man as a human being. I found old photos of him as a young military officer in India during World War II, playing tennis as a younger man, gardening in his middle ages, and bird watching and hand raising a fledgling mocking bird in his later years. When I was done, I had placed a picture of him as a four year old along side that of an elderly man holding a young mocking bird perched on his finger as the centerpieces of the photo collage.
While the collage had been arranged, none of the pieces had been secured until I got a sign off from my friend's mother. I waited until she returned home from having her hair done for the funeral. My friend's mother is a very vibrant and still very beautiful 85 year old lady with a mind as sharp as an ice pick. I asked her if she had any requests or changes to the photo collage before I attached the pictures to the backing. She looked at the collage and commented on every picture. Then she said that she was so thrilled that I had truly captured the man she had fallen in love with and married, not just his accomplishments.
For years I have always said that I am very connected to my friend in a way that is almost like a sister. Today, I realized that I am also very connected to this wonderful family as if they were truly my own flesh and blood.