While I no longer professionally shoot clients, occasionally a special request will come along that's impossible to refuse. And this was one of them.
Anna is the grandmother of one of my good friends. At 103, she is still sharp as a tack. She has a twinkle in her eye and won't hesitate to make a joke. She shares her room in the nursing home with her sister Lil, 101. I remember visiting with Lil when she lived at my friend's house decades ago. When I'd ask her how she was doing, she'd say "I'm fat 'n sassy!" and do a little jig. These days, Lil doesn't speak at all due to dementia. But she seems content and will flash you a smile. She loves Elizabeth Taylor (which was obvious from the posters tacked on her wall) and she loves to hold her older sister's hand. Anna told me she thinks it comforts her.
Two of ten children, I imagine Anna and Lil sharing a room growing up. Giggling at night, sharing secrets, maybe even having a few posters on their wall. I imagine Anna leading her little sister around their farm, holding her hand and keeping her safe. And after all the flurry of two lives well lived, here they are together again---right where they started.
While at the nursing home, I couldn't help but think of all the unrecorded stories that were floating around in that building just begging for someone to capture them. I think aging is hard for all of us to grasp and to look at; it makes us uncomfortable to imagine what the end of our own days will look like. But if you have old people in your life (and even if you don't, seek some out), I urge you to hear their stories & capture their portraits.
And I'm not making this plea just so we, the photographers, can feel all warm and fuzzy inside afterwards. As I was leaving, Anna rolled up to her friends at her dinner table and announced proudly, "A photographer came to see me today." It's for them too.
We're all in this together.
Thanks Lyndsey, Anna, & Lil.