January 2, 2020

A Unique Family Photo

"He wanted to meet her so badly."

I met Grace years ago, when we waited tables together in our clunky anti-slip shoes and bulging aprons. We weren’t really friends then, just coworkers, but somehow we ended up getting connected on social media when we went our separate ways in our careers. It was on this platform that we reconnected and through a string of messages she started supporting my art and I started giving her new mom tips.

Grace and I are the same age. We are young mothers who are figuring it out the hard way like every mother before us. However, Grace entered motherhood on the heels of the greatest tragedy of her life: the death of her father just 5 months before Fiona’s birth. In an incredibly honest post at 30 weeks pregnant she wrote,

“… I know the timing wasn’t ours, but it couldn’t have been more perfect. We didn’t know I’d lose my dad this spring. We didn’t know how badly my mom and sister would need this baby to love. We didn’t know how close it would bring Jake and I. And I had no idea how I could rise to this occasion. This little girl is pure divine intervention and I love her for it.”



Grace wanted one thing for Christmas: A family photo. Together.


Scanned Printed Photograph

Digital Photograph Taken by Me

We worked together to create a moment that could never happen in the living world.

I sifted through every photo that Grace had of her father, searching frantically for something that was workable and could look realistic aside a present day photograph.

The print that I selected turned out to be a moment too perfect for words. There he was, standing in all white with this look of pure adoration on his face at something or someone just outside of the frame. I asked Grace about this and she told me that the snapshot was taken at their family cabin, and from the timing and placement, his gaze was fixed on her mother holding either her or her sister as a baby.

And so I set out to create the second piece of the puzzle: his girls. I had Grace, her sister, her mother, and her newborn daughter Fiona dress in ivory and took their portrait in the living room, leaving room for Dad to complete the circle.

As I worked, I realized the piece needed something else.

So I asked Grace if she had any hand written letters from her father.

She had 2 birthday cards.

I always enjoy integrating pieces of nature into my artwork, and in this case I wanted something to add texture and dimension, but also some added symbolism.

The plant I chose goes by several names, including a “Wandering Jew” or “Spiderwort”, formally known as Zebrina pendula, an incredibly resilient specimen. They are known to be almost indestructible. This particular vine was given to me by a friend who had an overflowing pot which by all accounts should have been dead long ago. With no water or light this form still clung to life, and for this immortal nature I felt it would be the perfect fit for our artwork.

My mom loved your piece. She opened it by a window so she could see all the details. She sat holding it on her knees quiet for a few seconds just taking it in and soon a few tears started spilling over her cheeks. And then she cried. My sister and I hugged her and we cried with her. It was emotional and raw, like feeling the sting of his loss all over again but in a bittersweet way. Once it settled I pointed out the details you put in, the foliage at the bottom and how they never die, the picture you chose how it ended up being one where he had been looking at my mom holding one of us and you didn't realize it, the hand writing, reading his words again. It's a beautiful piece but an even more beautiful experience. You didn't just create a gorgeous piece for me and my family, you created a moment full of love and emotion. You created a portrait that we could never have otherwise and that's priceless. Thank you so much.

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