Learning to be thankful again | Holiday Reflections

“(His) absence is like the sky, spread over everything.” ― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Today I’d like to introduce you to Patricia and Wayne, and their beautiful little people: Emmalee, Nick, and Joseph. They are not clients. They are my friends. These photos were made when I visited them last month. 

Patricia and Wayne were my brother’s best and closest friends. Many times when he would visit me, he would be stopping by my house on his way to see them at their home in Virginia. I was always impressed that he would spend two days driving so he could see them for one day, since from Georgia to Virginia is a ten hour drive, even if you’ve got a lead foot. Tim kept telling me how I should go with him one time and meet them because Patricia and I are both smartasses and he just knew we’d hit it off. But my travel kept me going in all the wrong directions at all the wrong times, and we never did it.

And then he was gone.

The first time I finally met Patricia and Wayne was at Tim’s wake.

Over the next weeks and months, we would reach out to each other for comfort. Without me even realizing the significance of it, the universe had sent me a year of 2016 wedding bookings located mostly on the east coast, with several trips to Virginia. Early in the summer, I made my first trip to their house and spent a couple of days with them. And that’s when I understood why Tim would make that long drive. They welcomed me into their home with open arms. We ate, we drank, we shared stories, and we cried. There really is no way to describe how simultaneously wonderful and painful it was to finally spend time with people who knew my brother like I knew him. People who knew my brother probably even better than I knew him. 

The months have passed and I have gotten to know them even better, and I have grown to adore them. I know they are people who will always be a part of my life. They are now a part of my chosen family.

As I’ve gotten older, I have come to understand that one of the most paradoxical things about life is that after the storm passes, if you’ve survived, you’ll be rewarded with a magnificent sunset. The storm isn’t avoidable, but we all get to decide whether we will decide to see and appreciate the sunset.

This year, this first holiday season without my little brother, I choose to stand amidst the wreckage and lift my chin up and see the sunset. I am grateful that this big-hearted family is now in my life. I am grateful for the presents that the kids made for me on my last visit, and I carry them with me in my car as a reminder of those sweet little people who loved my giant brother. I am grateful that despite all the curve balls thrown at us as we grew up, my brother and I both figured out how to surround ourselves with kind and caring people who genuinely love us. I am most grateful to know that Tim had these loving souls in his life for the past several years. And that he shared. Also, I think we can all agree that we’re thankful for bacon and beer and bourbon. Thank you Patricia, Wayne, Emmalee, Nick, and Jojo. For everything.

Amanda Summerlin

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Making neat pictures of nice people since 2009. You're not like everybody else, your pictures shouldn't be either.