4 Years Ago…

4 years ago, our family was going through one of the toughest times ever. On the Tuesday after Memorial Day, my husband had a PET scan and it revealed that the lung cancer we all had hoped would go away didn’t. In fact, it blew up and had taken over my husband’s body. There were spots on his femur, on his hip bone, on his colon, on his neck bones, and everywhere in his lungs except where the radiation had been targeted. That was one of the hardest days of my life…

On the way home we called the kids and let them know everything we knew…and that was that my husband was only given a few weeks to live. At the time, they thought maybe 3-4 weeks…or at least that’s what they told us. I now suspect they knew it would be quicker…

Regardless, we went home. The kids all came home. We scrambled to give my husband the very best days we could while he was still with us.

We told the extended family and told anyone who wanted to say goodbye that they were welcome to come. We hosted lots of family and friends during the few days.

We picked out a burial plot. That was something Kramer did himself. We tried to get to the lawyer but when it came time for the appointment, Kramer wasn’t up to it. We had a will and I ended up going to the lawyer with one of my kiddos just to make sure everything was in place.

We tried to accommodate everyone’s last wishes and needs before he left us.

Our daughter, without me knowing, booked a photographer to come to the house and get a last set of family pictures. I’ll be honest. I was a little bothered by that. Who wanted pictures of us at that point? We were all so exhausted. Kramer didn’t even look like himself anymore. He had to be in a wheelchair because of the cancer in his femur and hip. We didn’t dare have him have an accident and trip and break it. Beyond all of that, how could I possibly muster a smile? How could any of us?

Rather than complain and squash the pictures, I decided to just shut my mouth and if this is what my daughter needed to feel okay, then I’d just do it.

Our photographer was great. I think she could tell this was really hard for us all. So she snapped some candid pictures of the day…not all posed pictures. This was Scotty and Carver.

Lucy was terrible at this age. She didn’t like anyone besides her parents and her other grandma.

But the photographer got some good shots of her.

The photographer got some good shots that are meaningful to the babies now that they have grown. Here is Kramer playing with Georgie’s toes.

This photo is of all of us and is the most posed photo. I like it.

Can you see the brown thing sticking up behind the tree on the right? That’s my old living room couch. It broke…just snapped in the middle (Don’t buy Ashley furniture!). The boys carried it outside and put it in the sinkhole that had formed in our yard with the intention of burning it.

They later did burn it. They had a bonfire and that’s where they all were sitting when I found them a couple of nights later to tell them that Kramer had just passed away.

Over the last four years, these pictures have grown on me. I still don’t love them…but they’ve grown on me. They are an honest look at where our family was at this moment. Some pictures I didn’t show have us looking more sad and even a few where we’re wiping a tear away. In most, we mustered a smile.

I’ve said this before and will say it again and again and again. Go out and have some family pictures taken NOW. Don’t wait like we did. Don’t wait until your loved ones are sick and just a shadow of themselves. Don’t wait until you have to force a smile. Don’t wait until the wheelchairs, the neckbraces, and the oxygen all make their way into the pictures too. Take the pictures now so you don’t have to look back and feel the pain along with the joy.

Kramer died two and a half days after these pictures were taken.

I don’t regret getting the pictures taken, in fact, I am glad we have them but I do really wish we had more family pictures that showed a happier time in the life of our family. Which reminds me…I need to schedule a time for family photos. Just because Kramer isn’t here, doesn’t mean we aren’t a family…and doesn’t mean we can’t do family pictures. Make a goal to do it. I am. I’m off. I’m going to give Kalissa a call and see if we can come up with a time to take some.

20 thoughts on “4 Years Ago…”

  1. You are so right. Family is the most important and pictures record a family. Not pictures on a phone but real pictures. People who come to see me always comment on all the pictures I display, but they reinforce my memories of my love ones, those that are still here and those who have gone before me. My regret is that I don’t have a good picture of my grandmother who died when I was 13. She always said she was too heavy or not pretty enough for a picture, but that was not true, we all loved her just the way she was.

  2. Karin Callander

    Sending big hugs. Such a heartwarming and intimate story. You’re right, tho, time spent with loved ones is always precious and too short. One picture is worth a thousand words.

  3. Jo, this post reminds me of a beautiful memory you shared shortly after Kramer passed away. You said he took you on a drive and dug up iris in a ditch to plant in your yard. Little did I know that your husband had passed away, I don’t know how you were able to share that memory when your pain was so fresh, It touched me so I printed the message and saved it, It was a true love story, Thank you for sharing such a special memory,

  4. Thank you Jo, for sharing with us. Because of your words, I now make sure I don’t refuse to have my photo taken. Life is too short.

  5. My husband Len was a camera addict so I have many photos of family together. The best one is a picture I took just a year before he died, everyone laughing after a great day together. Little did we know that he would die in a year from a brain tumor. Life can be very short and it’s great to look back at pictures of our loved ones. Your pictures are great and though it brings sadness to remember that time, in time the sadness lessens. Life goes on…….

  6. Stephani in N. TX

    Some years ago we had a wedding in the family and many photos were taken and they are fun too. I saw cousins and in-laws and out-laws. As we were departing a family gathering the next day, my cousin took a closer-up photo of my husband and I together. Some months after, my husband passed away with an illness that started with pneumonia. We had lots of photos, mostly one of us took a photo of the other, but not many of us together. Take photos together, hand the camera off to someone and ask them to take a photo. I am happy now to have that last photo of us together at a happy family occasion. Thank you Jo for your words over what must be the toughest time of your life and enjoy the photos of you and your family. It’s a record of everyone’s new reality and it’s obvious you’re making it together.

  7. You’re right – we often keep putting off those family gatherings and the family pictures. And then suddenly it’s too late. I’m guilty of putting it off too, and I’m also sad that some important opportunities have been missed for those photos. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I think we all put off family gathering for one reason or another. Our family is scattered which makes it hard. I’d love to set a date and say this is when we can all get together and give everyone enough notice.
    Thank you for the reminder – I know this was painful for you but a blessing in disguise.
    Love and prayers

  9. This post must have been hard to write, and it was hard to read with tears. You are so right that we need to take our family photos when we are still somewhat whole. It is so much harder though, when one lives in Virginia, another in Texas, another in Colorado, and me in Michigan. I will make it a point though this summer when the ones from Texas and Virginia are visiting this summer to get some good family pictures. Thank you for sharing this reminder to us.

  10. My mother-in-law had family photos taken every 5 years in the fall. If we wanted, we could have just our family photo taken at the same time and use them for Christmas photos that year. Good memory. She’s been gone over 10 years and my husband 10, and his brother, who rarely smiled, 8.

    I think the kids and grandkids will treasure these photos of Kramer even more in years to come.

  11. I totally agree. I lost my soulmate husband in November 2017, and that’s definitely one of my regrets. ❤️

  12. Shirley from Calmar

    Words escape me. I want to say something comforting, empathetic and caring. Just know I understand what you have, and are going through. I don’t know what it was like for you and your family, because it is different for everyone. I do understand it is surreal and one of the hardest thing to go through. Bless you and thank you for sharing.

  13. We just met our second great-granddaughter Emmeline…she is 5 months old. Our other granddaughter also has a baby, Melody 9 months old…having both of our great-granddaughters here at the same time was so wonderful! I can’t wait to get all the pictures that were taken…who knew we’d live to have two great-granddaughters–and both perfect on top of that! God is good!

  14. I saw no one left this comment, I think. My mind is as good anymore. I was given this hint years ago.

    When children have their school pictures, fmily pictures, worth remembering pictures of special occasions, etc, ALWAY get extra prints made. Because I’ve been a recipient of extra photos and needed some of my own back, this was a WONDERFUL hint and I pass it on to all of you.

    Life happens. Due to fires, floods, tornadoes, moving losses and damages, hurricanes, etc. So send pictures to family and close friends, you won’t regret it. And please send this hint along as you may some day use it.

    Jo, I feel your pain. My husband has been deceased longer than yours and I too miss him but he’s in a better place as he was also ill and in pain. So many times it is a blessing, but death when it comes unexpectedly, trust me, it’s much HARDER than an illness death. So many things left unsaid, no last kiss or hug, etc. As we’re both Christians we know they’re out of pain and enjoying a life of goodness until we join them. To me remembering the good times help me but also there is still pain but I accept it because I had those good times.

    I read each and EVERY posting and I thank you for them. May the Lord continue to bless you and yours. Nancy

  15. Judith Fairchild

    I had just come across your blog about a week before you took Kramer to the Dr. It’s been 4 year?? How fast time has flown the baby is now 4 and saying and doing big girl stuff. Thank you for your honesty and sharing the pictures and thoughts. I regret the fact that I don’t have many pictures of my late husband. It’s been 30+ years. The pictures I do have I cherish. You and I have learned to keep on keeping on in spite of our loss. Praying Jesus’s best for you and your family.

  16. Amy Sidelinger

    Thank you for sharing. Beautiful pictures of a beautiful family. Once loved ones are taken from this earth there are never enough pictures. We are so blessed to live during a time when snapping a picture is as quick as picking up the phone for 5 seconds. But don’t just snap them and leave them buried in the digital archives to be lost forever either.

  17. Thanks for sharing this Jo. Family is so very important. The photos are so valuable and will always be treasured. Thinking of you and your family. It had to be so difficult. I pray for your strength.

  18. My husband’s hobby is genealogy. Pictures are priceless and tell a story that is timeless. Time marches on and generations pass, it is nice to have those moments in time immortalized. We just need to plan to take the time for the pics, try to resist the urge to hide in a photo and embrace who we are and who we love. So worth it. I always tell my 4 adult daughters who have young families that the days seem long, but the years fly by. Cherish family.

  19. Valerie Chapman

    My husband died the day after Thanksgiving 2021, in a car accident. Thank goodness he liked having his picture taken and when I get a chance I’m going to make a big online album for his family and friends to view. We don’t have a lot of photos together, my bad, I’m the photographer. There is an old Simon and Garfunkel song, Old Friends. The last line is: “Preserve your memories. They’re all that’s left you. Thank you for sharing a very personal memory. XXOO

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