Time to Share
I have to tell you a cool story. So bear with me as I seem to ramble on here. Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge a while ago? Well, I got nominated to do it like so many of us did. And I really really didn't want to get wet and cold and I really really don't like being on camera so this whole thing wasn't cool with me. Plus I thought maybe I could make a difference in a different way and use my photography skills instead. I offered to do a full session for a family affected by ALS. I know when a loved one is facing terminal illness sometimes the last thing families are thinking about is photos but when their loved one is gone, the first thing they do is cling to photos.
So I put out the call on my Facebook page and got in touch with the family of Bruce Kramer. I had the honor of photographing his entire extended family in October 2014. Several family members had flown in from out of town and it was a reunion of sorts. A lovely but heartbreaking reunion. At this point, Bruce was confined to a wheel-chair, on a breathing apparatus, had limited mobility in his hands, easily tired, but had a huge bright spirit and I instantly felt his grace. It was an amazing session. With the star of the show -- his only granddaughter who was a year old and delightful.
I was able to capture this set of images of them together. Honestly I've not really shared these before because it was such a poignant moment. And such a sacred moment that I didn't share them all over as I often do with images I'm super proud of. Well, obviously I gave them all to the family and they've enjoyed and shared them as they've wished. But I've not felt right about sharing it publicly much.
I didn't know who Bruce was before I met him. And I only met him once, for about 90 minutes. I was in photog mode during the shoot and didn't get emotional myself even though there were emotions flowing all over. Laughter, tears, love, longing, nerves, gratitude...all witnessed. But as soon as I stepped into the elevator as I left their home, the realization of what I had done hit me. I realized I would likely never meet him again as his journey was near the end. The emotions I had been setting aside during the session hit me and a sobbed all the way to the car and then some. It was an honor to be a part of his journey.
I wasn't the only one who was touched by Bruce. Turns out he was sort of a local big deal. :) He was a dean and professor at St. Thomas and well loved there. He was also working with MPR's Cathy Wurzer who interviewed him for a series on his ALS diagnosis called "Living While Dying." I didn't know any of this until well after I photographed him. And that was just fine with me. I wouldn't have changed the way I did the session. It didn't surprise me he was such an impactful man to so many because in the very short time I spent with him, I was touched too. He passed away a few months after I met him.
Are you still with me? Well fast forward to this week and Cathy Murzer sent me an e-mail. (Not often I get an email from MPR!). She and Bruce co-authored a book based on the interview series. It was published just a couple of weeks after he passed away in March of 2015. She is now doing a TEDx Talk this weekend at her alma mater UW-River Falls to discuss her time with Bruce and his story. She emailed to ask to use the image below to share with her audience. I of course said YES!
I couldn't be prouder to have one of my images on a TEDx stage. I'm honored to have captured that moment in time. The emotions that cross his face in these three images speak volumes.
And it's time I share it with you.
Bruce's St. Thomas obituary
The book "We Know How This Ends: Living While Dying"
Living While Dying Podcasts
Bruce's Blog: Dis Ease Diary
Cathy Wurzer on MPR
TEDx Talk Details