“Doubt thou the stars are fire
Doubt thou the sun doth move
Doubt truth to be a liar
But never doubt I love”
- William Shakespeare, Hamlet
My grandparents played a huge role in my upbringing. They introduced me to frozen grapes, the natural coils of a vacuum chord, ice cream for dinner. They doted upon me sage advice like "Never take any wooden nickels" and "It's nice to be important, but it's important to be nice." Though it was their subtle lessons that stuck with me most; how to love fiercely and with longevity, how to forgive, and how to cherish.
They live for the seven of us, their grandchildren. A card for every holiday, a call almost every weekend. They proudly inflate our successes-- my older sister a doctor, not a med school student; me, an award-winning filmmaker, not a recent art school grad. Their love for us, for the family, drive their simple days at Stonebridge, where they have little to do but daydream and decline amidst a community of aging souls.
I started documenting them as I realized they were wilting-- my grandpa's handwriting shriveled, my grandma's memory lapsed, they retired to wheelchairs and scooters, endured surgeries and strokes. They were fierce through the thick of it, reaching out to me as I moved further geographically and they were moved into separate hospital rooms, intensive care, assisted living. Initially, documenting these last years of their lives was my attempt to capture what time kept stealing, but I found it served much more.
I brought my camera to my grandma's funeral in the summer of 2014. It was the hardest thing I've ever shot, maneuvering around my mourning relatives with tears in my viewfinder and a lump in my throat. I flew home and immersed myself in editing footage I shot of them in 2010, ordering a photo story on my grandmother, trying to write some abstract companion to this personal project. I kept hitting walls. It wasn't until I stepped away that I realized I wasn't trying to preserve these moments, but to process them. I processed the fervent passion for family, the optimism, cynicism, and grief, the stubborn dreams of youth, prosperity, and it's inevitable end. Through all of the loss, I gained a deeper understanding of the love that my grandparents spent their whole lives building.
My grandpa Ernie once said, "You live your life through your family, and if you've got a good family, good stock, this is the beauty of living as long as we did."