Legacy. They left an incredible legacy and an indelible mark on my life. The people in this photo (circa 1941/1942) are several of the most influential individuals I have ever known. They are my grandparents (my momma is the baby). It is through my relationship with them, the example they consistently set for me, and the accountability they provided that has contributed to the person I am today. Sadly, they are now gone from this earth. My Papaw, as we called him, passed away in 1997, just a few months before the birth of my first-born. He was a man of incredible strength, faith, and integrity who was often quiet, unless an Indiana Pacer game was on T.V. At that point, he would become quite lively, full of excitement about his team. I loved hearing him shout with excitement. He would speak to me with conviction and I knew that when he spoke to me about something, I should listen to his wisdom. He was the one who always had his camera ready at every family event, snapping pictures of all of us as we gathered for holidays. He was a servant who worked hard and even in retirement, would find ways to serve God and his family. He was just the most incredible man, and I dearly wish that my own children could have had the opportunity to know him.
Fortunately, they did have the blessing of knowing my Mamaw, as we called her. She was just the strongest woman I’ve ever met, a Godly woman of strong Kentucky stock. She just loved all of us so much. She loved everyone, and would remind me as a teenager when I would occasionally voice my “hate” for someone, that we have to love people, even the ones who make us angry and wrong us. “After all,” she would remind me, “Jesus loves them.” She would be the one in my life who would just deliver the truth I needed to hear about Jesus, about loving others, about forgiveness, and about getting my act together. She would remind me to “keep my nose clean”, as she would all of us. In one of the last conversations I had with her, she insisted that I had better keep following the Lord. Even with the dementia, she wanted assurance that I was going to stay on the right path. “We have the gift of Christ in our lives, Joy, and it is a free gift!” she sang out with joy and excitement. That is who she was, always caring about others. It’s hard to put into words the deep respect I will always have for my grandma, who is now with the Lord. We lost her in September of 2014, and even though she had lived for 97 years and had a long battle with dementia, it was very painful to lose her. And yet, I celebrate her life. I see her when I wake up and hear the birds, because she and Papaw loved to watch the birds in their backyard at the feeders and flitting in and out the bird “apartment house”. I see her when I work on my garden and when I hug my children, because I know that the love she shared with me and the rest of my family was something special. I am reminded of her daily, because I have a special part of me that is from her, and I carry that both in my heart, and in my name.
The truth is, when I decided to begin a photography business, I wanted to give my business a name that reflects something that I value. The legacy we leave for our children is one of the most important things to me, aside from my relationship with the Lord, my husband, and my kids. It was very fitting to use my Mamaw’s middle name and part of her first name (which is also my middle name), because above all things, I desire to encourage positive family relationships somehow through my contact with the people I photograph. Fortunately, I was blessed by an amazing couple of grandparents who embodied an incredible legacy. Eventually, I will leave a legacy as well, and it is my hope that I will also leave behind strong values, and strong example of who Jesus is, and a powerful example of love.