One thing photographs do to comfort us in a small way is to remind us of lost loved ones in happier and healthier times. This is myself and my cousin Liz at her wedding in 1987—a picture I'd never seen until yesterday. Liz died very early last Sunday morning, at the age of 55, after a horrendously difficult eight-year-long struggle with breast cancer that was worse than anything anyone should have to bear in dying. During her illness she never wavered, living way past numerous doctors' predictions of her death with an astonishing degree of courage, determination, selflessness, and love—for her loyal husband, children, sisters, friends, and grandchildren.
The procession was a mile long and the church was crowded as we all had to say goodbye. It was enormously sad. Yet I also could not help but sense the joy that obviously so many felt in the privilege of knowing Liz.
(Thanks to Chris)
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Featured Comments from:
EMR: "When anybody ask me what's my photographs collection for, I always tell them the same: to remind me [of] people like Liz. People in a life that's worth living. Please accept my condolences for the loss of Liz."
Mike replies: Thank you, and thank you to everyone who expressed condolences.
Tom Bell: "Hi Mike, there are no words here. In my 30 years as a family doctor here on the north edges of Dartmoor in England it is with such sadness that these things happen to my patients; not only to them of course, but affecting their friends, family, lovers and children...and sometimes parents and grandparents. More recently to my own friends and family. Two years ago my sister died suddenly whilst I was with her. The loss is always deeply felt. What sustains me in all this is the deep love that comes to and from people as they and their families wrestle with their sadness and grief. The sadness is deep and never leaves. What we love one day we will lose.... Or if that love is mutual, we will be lost to them.
"On the other side is the strength of family. The memories good and bad of our fragile and wonderful imperfect lives. Pictures of us all when younger remind me of hope, of dreams and of the life lived through all its pain and glory. The picture you have of the two of you bristles with life. Beautiful.
"Thinking of you and Liz and all who surround you."
Ed Kirkpatrick: "I have looked at this photo four times now because the admiration and love she expresses in this photo is truly wonderful. I would say you were a lucky man to have such a cousin and I am sorry to hear about her long struggle with such a terrible disease."
Richard Ripley: "I am very sorry for your loss. I was looking over old photos yesterday for the new Apple Photos app and tagging Faces for identification in the app when I came across a photograph of my brother who died last August. I was completely overwhelmed by the photograph and started crying. Photographs can be strong links to loved ones and loves, the past and our memories. Thank you for sharing what has been happening. I will be thinking of you and your family."
Sal Santamaura: "Despite my agreement with BWJones on the upside-down nature of U.S. funding priorities, it seems we may be close to getting a handle on how to defeat this illness (these illnesses, really). If you haven't yet seen it, this '60 Minutes' two-part report details a promising new treatment direction. I fear Liz might have left you only a few years before it will be possible to turn cancer into something that can be cured or handled as a chronic condition. Condolences."
Mike replies: That's wonderfully hopeful. Thanks Sal. There's a surprisingly hopeful and positive short essay about feeling poorly and feeling well at the New York Review of Books called "A General Feeling of Disorder" by Oliver Sacks that I can recommend in return.