Friday, November 14, 2008

Tonight I am starting something new. This blog entry was written by one of our Soul photographers, Teddi Yaeger. I hope to ask each photographer that shoots for Soul to occasionally share their thoughts and experiences. I thought you all would like to hear about the work through the various hearts of Soul. Karen died just a few days after her shoot. So I will open this entry in the way I usually close it: in love and peace, Lynette

Lynette & Sarah,
Here is my blog entry and some of the images from Karen photo session that accompany it.
Thank you both for the opportunity to be a part of this amazing organization.

I met Karen and her 15-year-old son Joe on Sunday, October 26th at their home in Everett. Karen is in her final stage
of cancer, and was connected to Soulumination through Providence Hospice & Home Care of Snohomish County.

I was greeted by Joe, a beautiful young man, and then introduced myself to four amazing women. Three of the
women were volunteers from Look Good, Feel Better - a community-based, free, national service that provides women
undergoing chemotherapy and radiation with free training or one-on-one consultations with trained cosmetologists,
who specialize in the beauty and image needs of cancer patients. All three of these women were or had been cancer
patients themselves, and had benefited from the services of Look Good, Feel Better themselves. Now they were here
rallying around Karen, enhancing her beauty so that I could capture it in the photographs of her and Joe.

I was so moved by their unflinching show of support, that I couldn't help but think about how strong and courageous
women truly are. Even in our small group that afternoon, there was such a powerful sense of community - a sharing
of personal stories, an acknowledgment of shared experiences, and lots of encouragement. There was such honesty
and openness. I listened and watched with such admiration as the women gathered around Karen, fixing this and
touching up that, all the while telling her how beautiful she looked.

Karen was the fourth amazing woman that I met that day. She was so down-to-earth, so matter-of-fact, and
unfortunately, so tired. I was conscious of this while at the same time, I wanted to make sure that I captured the
relationship between Karen and Joe. I wanted Joe to be able to look at these photographs throughout the years and
not just remember what his mother looked like. I wanted Joe to be able to look at these photographs throughout the
years and remember how much his mother loved him.

I did not think I had captured it well enough in the indoor photographs, so with Karen's consent we headed outside
for a few minutes and I had Joe sit next to his mom. (Joe wanted to wear his leather jacket, which Karen told me was
a gift from her late brother, Joe's uncle.) For a minute, Joe and Karen smiled at the camera. Then I asked them to
look at each other. Karen smiled at Joe, then leaned her head in until it touched his. Joe smiled his shy teenage
smile at me while Karen closed her eyes. Then Joe forgot about me, about smiling, about the photograph and leaned
into his mom, his eyes closing briefly. I knew then that I had done it. With those final images, I had captured just
how these two feel about each other.

The final images feel so intimate that every time I look at them, I almost feel like I'm spying on a private moment that
wasn't meant for me. While I wish I could do so much more, I hope that I have given this remarkable young man at
least a small gift, to have for all of the years to come.