I had the opportunity to shoot Alexis’ wedding back in January. I knew it was going to be a special day because she’s from my childhood ward in Ohio, and her whole family was going to be there. I LOVE seeing people from my childhood for one big reason – usually they knew my dad. I moved to Utah just months after my dad passed away from cancer. I was 14 years old and still in a lot of shock from losing him. One thing that comforted me then and STILL comforts me to this day is when people talk about my dad. We do have a few close family friends out here who knew my dad, and I always look forward to being with them because usually they will bring up something they remember about him. I LOVE going home to Ohio because it’s story after story about my dad. It’s invigorating!
At the end of the wedding, I was chatting with Chandice and Anna Lee. I brought up to Anna Lee how much the locket she gave me after my dad died will ALWAYS mean to me. I wore it for years. And when it broke, I bought a new one. I loved having my dad with my constantly, even if it was just a picture around my neck. It brought so much comfort. Chandice looked at me after and told me she had to tell me something she remembered about my dad and asked if it was ok. Of course I wanted to hear it!
She told me about how she remembers two different testimonies from people in her life. One was a woman’s, and another was my dad’s. He was in our ward Bishopric and served in it until close to the end of his life. She said she couldn’t remember exactly where he was in his diagnosis, but she remembered knowing that he was going to die. He bore his testimony of the importance of home teaching. I immediately was taken back to the many home teaching appointments I went to with my dad. We visited many people in the ward, but I specifically remember visiting a woman who was almost bedridden. She was in a nursing home, and I remember how comfortable and at ease my dad was with her. It was a side of him I hadn’t seen prior to those experiences. Chandice said she remembers his testimony so vividly because of his circumstance in life and his willingness to still serve others.
I don’t think I could ever put into words how much it meant to me for her to share her memory. It was literally like a lesson from the grave from my dad to me. I felt like he was reminding me of how important it is for me to serve others right now. And I think that’s one of the reasons Chandice not only remembered, but was prompted to share with me. My dad doesn’t get to be here – I don’t get to have him. But he DOES live on through the memories of others. Knowing he is STILL influencing others’ lives is such a blessing to me. It instills such a sense of joy in me knowing that others know that HE WAS HERE and he added value to their lives. We moved to Utah – almost no one in my life since that move knows my dad. He’s not real to them. Sometimes he doesn’t even feel real to me. It’s been almost 20 years since I lost him. I love that Josh was there when she shared that story with me, too. He doesn’t get to know my dad. He doesn’t get to meet him. But I love that my dad can be more real to the man I love because I know my dad can be an influence and blessing to ALL of us in my little circle.
We left the wedding shortly after that. We had a drive from Cedar City back to St. George. It was quiet. Josh could tell I was deep in my thoughts. I thought so much about my dad. I thought about how much I miss him. I thought about how much I’ve wished he could have been here through this last year and a half of the hell of divorce. I needed him. But then I thought about how much I have felt him, and how I know I have to go through the really hard things to know that he’s here. He wouldn’t let me do this all on my own. He was told in a blessing before he died that being on the other side of the veil would allow him to be here for his kids. I’ve felt that through this trial. I’ve seen him in my mind. I’ve heard him tell me exactly what I need to hear. I thought about what Chandice said, about the importance of serving others. I thought about my kids and what my dad would have been like with them. I thought about Josh and how much I wish he could meet my dad. I think they would get along pretty well. It felt good. It felt good to dedicate that hour drive to my dad. I don’t stop very often and really feel all the emotions I still feel from losing him. I don’t stop very often and reminisce on all of the amazing memories I have with him. Chandice sharing her story stopped me in my tracks and really provided me the opportunity to purposely remember my dad.
I’m sharing this because I know it’s hard to know what to say to people who are experiencing loss. In my opinion, sharing memories is the number one thing we can do. Let people know that their loved one is REAL, that they were here, that they influenced people to do good. Let them know you remember because that will help them remember, too. Share when you’re prompted because there’s probably a reason. <3
*Photo by Chandice Richards