Alida White died. Never heard the name before, but world wide it is pretty popular. Not that people live up to their names, unless someone named them Thor or Boomer, but this particular name would require its carrier to be noble and giving. Can’t say she was or wasn’t, because I didn’t know her when she was her; I only knew her when she had an inoperable tumor. And at her age, when you get that condition and you haven’t had time to do all you wanted to do, that is a pretty difficult way to have to face everyday, never knowing when one will be your last.
I entered her life briefly through my wife’s good deeds. The family needed help with meals. So Sharon, along with friend’s of the family and members of OZ, a synagogue we have a passing relationship with, cooked for them. I made portraits of the family for a school assignment at Hallmark Institute of Photography. They cleaned the house, dressed up, and rearranged the furniture. Alida and Marcia put on makeup. Sometimes people don’t take family portraits as seriously, even though they should. You never know. We shot for a while. The lights didn’t work. I didn’t know how to arrange them in the space as effectively as I could have and should have. Alida tired. But never showed any lack of interest. She just tried to be as beautiful and real as she could be.
Now, photographers shoot for many reasons. And they have pithy quotes about what a photograph is or isn’t. Sure, it is a document, one that freezes the moment, capturing all that is going on in 1/160 of a second, give or take a few fractions of a second. It doesn’t speak, at least not out loud, and it lacks motion, though not gesture. You cannot touch or hold it. I only requires you to feel it.
They didn’t know me or my camera work. And I didn’t have time to get to know them. At some point, they would all look differently. From my side of the camera, they were all beautiful, knowing that the images I made would document their lives forevermore. We met electronically for a few seconds, controlled by the light and the emotions. A beautiful moment which will allow them to hold each other for an eternity.
When we went to the house for a shiva call, even though the survivors don’t do shiva, the house was full of friends. Food filled the table. The noise levels were high. They had taken one of my images which I had printed and delivered and put it on a postal size card with one of Alida’s favorite poems of the back for people to take as a remembrance. I had no idea they had done this. The rabbi said that my image was with her in the hospice. Who knows if she recognized anyone in it? But for them, it symbolized their love for one another and served as a memory of life as hers was slowly ebbing away.
Lewis thanked me. No thanks necessary. It was my honor and a mitzvah in the truest sense of God’s word. This is one reason for me to have a camera.