Shortly after Mom moved to Louisiana, I asked if I could photograph her. An eager but inexperienced photographer, I told her I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the photos but thought it would be helpful for me to process, well, the process. The process of her dying.

“Are you sure you want to see the decline?” she asked. Yes, I replied. I think the distance of the lens will help me to work through this. And my foray into photographing my mom began.

This first photograph remains my favorite thus far. Still not quite settled in to her apartment, where she now has a comfortable chair and table set up for her nebulizer, she used the dining room table. Each treatment takes 17 minutes, and almost inevitably she falls asleep. I was sitting at the far end of the table from her and sneaked this shot.

IMG_0901 (1)
Mama J during a nebulizer treatment. The nebulizer helps to open her constricted airways. She takes four treatments a day, for 17 minutes each time.

I love everything about it. I love her clasped hands and how her hair nearly fades into the wall behind her. I love that she is off-center, the movement from the machine to the curled hose to her hands.

I began to post the photos to Instagram, usually with a caption to help me tell the story that I am telling now … a visit to the hairdresser, where the stylist was incredibly sweet to her. Working at her computer with B helping her, her face lit with concentration and light from the computer screen. Sleeping at the dining room table while using the nebulizer, swallowed up in her late husband’s sweater.

Feeling encouraged by the kindness of friends, I decided to enter the photo above in the faculty/staff art show at school. Trying to decide on a name for the photo, I chose “Grace,” and looking now at the definitions of that word, I think she embodies all of them:

1. (n) simple elegance or refinement of movement

2. (n) (in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings

3. (v) do honor or credit to (someone or something) by one’s presence

Thank you for honoring us with your presence, Mama J. I will never forget your grace, this gift of time with you or the opportunity to be of service to you.

Next post: “I think I’m doing better.”

5 thoughts on “Grace”

  1. Such a difficult and brave adventure to embark on! I admire you for wanting to photograph these times and I know that they will be a blessing to you now and later. God Speed.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This picture says so much, and yes, it speaks of Grace. I love her physical position here, her clasped hands indicating her mental removal to another place, a private space, a sphere disconnected from machines and doctors and indignities. I love her ability to tough it out and shut it out.

    Liked by 1 person

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