I've thought of this day over and over again.
It was spring 2011 and I had traveled from Southern California up to Sacramento for a weekend of shoots. My dad had been sick for about a month, gradually having trouble breathing which was odd for him. He was a strong, healthy 59 year old man with the stamina of a horse. The doctor worried it might be lung cancer after a chest x-ray, but after a few more tests they decided it probably wasn't cancer, maybe some type of infection causing fluid to build up in his lungs. The day of my engagement shoot my dad was going in for minor surgery to remove the fluid so he could start to breath easy again. I was on edge but hopeful that this is what he needed to feel better and this scary ordeal would be over.
A single phone call would change my life.
While on the freeway I picked up a phone call from my step-mom. She was crying. They found cancer, a lot of it. Tumors all over his lung cavity. Inoperable. Likely terminal. "Can you call your sister?"
My world was crashing down around me and I was alone on the freeway, 10 minutes away from needing to be "on" for an engagement shoot. I had been sobbing on the phone with my step-mom, then sobbing on the phone as I broke the news to my sister. I could barely breathe, makeup was streaking down my face, I was wiping my nose on my sleeve. I pulled up to my client's house where I was meeting them for their shoot and I tried to compose myself in the car. I just needed one hour, and then I could lose it again. I gulped down some air, tried to fix my face (hopeless), and got out.
Sarah and Peter were waiting for me in their front yard and as I walked up, Sarah knew something was wrong. My plan to keep it together fell apart, I cried and told them what had just happened. Sarah hugged me and told me to go and be with my family (pretty sure I sobbed on her shoulder). Not for one second did she make me feel bad or guilty about not doing their session, something we couldn't reschedule due to the fact that I had traveled hundreds of miles and their wedding was only one month away. I knew that she genuinely cared for me and my experience that day, it wasn't pity but empathy.
It's been almost 7 years since that day but I will never forget the kindness that they showed me. I was so caught up in everything else that it has been in the years after losing my dad that I began to really appreciate what Sarah and Peter did for me that day. It was such a small thing, but allowing me to not do the engagement shoot was a generous act of kindness that I know not everyone would have done. We had planned their engagement shoot for months, they were all dressed and ready to go, likely excited. And then I show up at their door, a crying mess, and I leave. They never got their engagement shoot, as I agreed to give them a wedding album instead.
Sarah and Peter, thank you. I haven't forgotten.