Nine Months

Parting Shots

I didn't take many pictures of him. Even "before."

I didn't take pictures of him because I kept thinking there was going be a different "after;" a better one than the one we got.  He was always in the hospital, or stuck on the couch, or hooked up to oxygen, or with visible surgery scars, or bedridden upstairs, or in a hospital bed in the living room, or in hospice -- all stages in a process I could rush here and type thousands of words about, but could not bring myself to hold up a camera and snap a photo of. I could not bring myself to document those moments forever as the way things were, right then, because documenting them felt like admitting that things would not get better. That we would not get a chance to eventually take a photo without the hospital bed or the oxygen tank or the thin, pallid skin and bruises.

People told me to take pictures. People told me right here, on this blog, in the comments, to take pictures. Right up until the end: Take pictures. Put the boys around him, put his hands on your belly, and take some damn pictures. 

I didn't take pictures of him because I felt weird about it, intrusive -- like he would know that I was only finally taking pictures because he was dying, even though he WAS dying, but still. Let's not talk about such things. And let's certainly not whip out the camera phone and take pictures of such things. I was confusing denial with optimism, mortality with morbidity.

And I didn't take pictures because I couldn't fathom ever wanting to look at those pictures. They'd be too sad, too awful, too much of a reminder that I missed so many better opportunities when he was sick but still less sick. I wanted to remember him with my minds' eye, I told myself. It was better that way. 

But since people told me to take pictures, I took a couple cheat-y shots at the very end: my pregnant belly at his bedside, his hand holding mine before I said goodbye for the last time. I took them quickly, stealthily, guiltily. His hospice nurse walked in while I was taking the photo of his hand and I was embarassed, like I'd been caught doing something I shouldn't. Something gross and strange. No, no, no, she told me. Keep taking pictures. I shook my head and said I was fine, all good, all done. What was I even taking the pictures for? Myself? My kids? My blog? Facebook? Good God.

A few weeks after he passed, my mom sent me a photo in the mail: The last photo she ever took of him. He's sitting up in a blue chair, oxygen canula in place, and smiling. She took it with her phone, and it shows: It's orange and poorly lit and a bit ghostly. He would be dead just a few days later. I took one quick look at it and shoved it back into the envelope, which I then buried hastily under a pile of papers. It unnerved me. It made my stomach feel twisty and sick. That's why you don't take pictures, I thought. I don't want to look at that, I thought.


The first time he ever met Ezra, he was in the hospital, about to undergo triple-bypass surgery. But because it was the first time he ever met Ezra, I reluctantly ignored the less-than-desirable circumstances and took a couple pictures. I'd completely forgotten about them until I finally exceeded my phone's ability to store every single photo I've ever taken and had to get serious about backing up and deleting old photos.

2,546 old photos, to be exact. And these are the only ones I had of him, of my dad.

IMG_0263 IMG_0264

IMG_0268 IMG_0265

I backed them up in about four other places, then printed them out. I still didn't delete them off my phone. If I squint, I can pretend that one of those Baby Ezras is actually Baby Ike. 


It's almost been a year. And when it came to choosing which photos to display in my office, next to my desk, it was a surprisingly easy decision.



Helen Jane

Oh, honey. Just. This was very good.


I am the shutterbug of the family, always have been. The last picture I have of my mom was two weeks before her diagnosis, ten weeks before she died.

Like you, I wasn't going to document the bad-it's going to get better, right? She beat polio, she can beat this, too. Except small cell lung cancer had other plans.

Treasure those pictures. I can see Ike in those snapshots, too.


I see joy and peace in these photos; not illness, not cancer, not death.


I took a pic of my MIL in her casket. I'm not positive what to do with it but I knew I would never get another picture of her so I had to take the chance. Like the others say, after time you only see the good, just like delivery room pictures - always worth taking even if you think you look really bad.


Yes. I miss photos. Even the sick looking ones (and sick on so many levels). I have a few, and amid all the illness things, there's always something: his eyes, his smile, the way his massive shoulders still looked massive and protective.

Those are beautiful photos of your dad. Love the smile. And love the sweetness how he lays Ezra by his neck. So sweet.

sonja lange

my heart breaks for you - but this was beautiful - thanks for sharing

Amy in StL

Everytime I read something about your dad it makes me get a teary eyed. Dad is 89 and has a host of serious health problems; but he's in good health most of the time. When one of his conditions rears it's head though, or when he gets pneumonia he gets very sick very quickly. And then there are days like yesterday when he is out picking up debris in the yard and asking how the internet works or how to figure out how much stuff he can plug into their generator. I can't imagine not having him here, ya know? I mean, damn - I don't know how you do it.




My Dad is in hospice (prostate cancer). I think about taking pictures but I can't bring myself to do it. Why would I want to remember him like this? We're planning a birthday party for him on the 17th. Maybe I'll try....


I remember having similar thoughts when my grandmother was dying--why would I want a picture of her like this? It just seemed morbid, like I would be acknowledging that I was preparing for her death. But we had an early Mother's Day dinner with the whole family one day, and we took pictures with her anyway: her with her sons, her with her grandkids, her with me and my husband. I came across the pictures recently, and realized that I am so, so very glad we did. The pictures remind me of that day when we just said, "Fuck cancer, we're going to enjoy the hell out of today."


Oh, mercy. I feel like you just reached into my chest and squeezed my heart. (In a... uh... good way.)

Gram of 4

Also take pictures of you WITH YOUR children. I know you like to be behind the camera, but you need to get in front. I, too, was the family shutterbug. I have pictures of everyone. But I have few of me WITH my children, and only have 1, ONE of just me with my mom who died 4 years ago. I'm in my 50's. I could have handed my camera to anyone, at any time, and sat next to my mom. But I didn't.
I know why you didn't take pictures of your Dad at the end. I couldn't do it either. But the one you have hanging there is awesome.


Oh. That 4th shot of ezra. Every child should know that someone held them that sweetly once.


Stop making me cry at work please.

Maria D.

You are an amazing writer and woman. This was a beautiful selection. I had a similar circumstance when my Grandfather was ill with pancreotic cancer. It took me a long time after to look at the photos when he was so frail, but when I did I saw how happy he was to be at my Mom's wedding, and how much pride he had in all his grandkids. It made my heart smile.


Lovely. And terrible. I'm sorry.

I keep deleting photos of my mum that I take because I know they're not flattering - she'd complain and say she looks awful. But the truth is that she'll never look younger than she does today. Nor, for that matter, will I. So I try to take the photos anyway.


Pictures are tough. The longer my mom is gone (2 years now) the more I actually do have more mental pictures of her. It's like I don't always default to remembering her so gaunt and ill, but can start to remember her full-cheeked and herself...eff cancer, indeed. Hang in there.


In Nigeria, where my husband is from, (and other countries I think) it's common to take pics at funerals. At first I thought it was weird and morbid, but now I see how it can be a celebration of that person's life. And, unfortunately, funerals and weddings are often the rare times when entire families are together at the same time.


This was beautiful - the part about squinting to see Baby Ezra as Baby Ike was what got me. Lovely post, even though it is heart-breaking.

FreeRange Pamela

My Dad died maybe 3 weeks ago from leukemia, and just today I hung up some pictures of myself, my brother and him, in the hospital. He's wearing an oxygen mask that covers up most of his face, but he's alive, and holding my hand, and, even though I questioned it at the time, I am so glad to have that picture. And now I'm crying....


My Grandmother sent me a picture of my Mom taken about 6 weeks before she passed away. I threw it out. I couldn't stand to see the thin skin stretched over her skull. I don't want to remember the suffering - I want to remember her how she was before she got sick. That photo still haunts me.


I feel the same way. I have very few photos of my dad during his final demise. I didn't take any mostly because I didn't want to remember him that way. The one I do have of him towards the very very end, one with him and his sister and his first cousins when they all came to say their final good-bye's, still makes me a little sick when I look at it. Sick and sad. My dad passed away just a short time before your dad did (it's been about a year and a few months now). Brutal then. Brutal now. Wondering when it stops being brutal. If ever.


Crying, behind desk, though, so ...therefore some legit crying right here. Right?


A beautiful, heart-wrenching post that resonates even more strongly today as two more people that I know either have succumbed or are beginning their fights with cancer. Fuck cancer indeed.


I love the pictures with your Dad and Ezra. We have a photo of my father taken in the hospital about 24 hours before he passed. My 5-year old niece came to say goodbye and asked to take a picture with Grandaddy. It creeped me out but she wanted it. Dad looks sick and has tubes and oxygen but they two of them are smiling together, so it's still beautiful. I'm glad she asked because I can definitely say I would not have offered to take the picture but I'm glad it now exists.


The last photo with Ezra where your dad's hand is on his head just moves me beyond words. So glad you have it.


*sniffle sniffle hugs*


The hospital stuff is all too familiar to me, except my dad never got to meet either of my kids. I would give ANYTHING to have a picture like those four you have with your dad and Ezra.


Oh, my heart.
No idea what to say other than *hugs*


My Dad's been gone barely a year. He was in the hospital for months before he died. At one point they pumped his stomach to help him breathe better. He wanted to see what was going on and I took a picture so he could see. After he died I had my husband delete those pictures from my camera. I'm glad. I remember my Dad well and happy and home. In my dreams he's healthy, walking, no oxygen, happy. I don't ever need to see my Dad again in a hospital bed because I see my Dad as the man he was my whole life not the last few years. People all handle things differently and there is no wrong way. I just did what was right for me.


I've always wanted to remember with my mind's eye, how they were. That's the way I want to remember but then I realize, I have to find ways for the kids to remember, I have to find ways to document the before even if it isn't a full "before now." I know it's because it's not our dad and we're removed, but like an earlier commenter said, I see joy and peace; he looks happy, content. And I'm glad you have these.


Oh this made me tear up so hard. But in a good way. I remember the year that I knew Grampa was sick. Dying. I KNEW it. I got all of the great grandkids around him and took pictures. I knew this would be the last time I had the chance. I am so very thankful I did.

This makes me want someone to take pictures of me and my dad. Like RIGHT! NOW!


Gee... you always make me laugh and now you managed to make me cry. I think you shouldnt feel guilty on any of the decisions you made. What doesn't feel good is just something you deicide not to do. That's ok. You remember your dad when he wasnt sick and looking sick as well. Don;t feel bad, remember your father in the good days. Love, Joyce.


The hospital bed disappears in those pictures. They're beautiful.


Oh my. You made me cry in the school parking lot. Sigh. I didn't take any pictures either and I really regret it.


It never gets any easier, it just gets different doesn't it? I was touched by your words and I am thinking about you today. You express yourself, but tap into nearly universal emotions, beautifully. As a lover of language and literature your Dad would absolutely be blown away by your talents.
The photos you've selected for your office are lovely. I hope they give you a reason to smile and/or remember every day.

Anne S.

Oh, lady. I believe one of the first posts I ever read on this site was about your dad, and I remember wanting to comment and tell you how impressed I was at your ability to capture those squishy feelings and nail them down with words. The comments were closed at that point, but it didn't matter — I kept coming back and quickly realized you could do the same with humor and fear and all of those life-type things that get the rest of us tongue-tied pretty damn quickly.

Now we're talking about your dad again, and I had exactly the same reaction as I did before. Thank you so much for giving these things a voice — my dad died about 2.5 years ago, and I still kick myself for not taking more pictures while he was still here. The pictures you do have are beautiful, as are your words about them. I obviously didn't know your dad, but I'm more than positive that you're doing him proud.


Amy, thank you for sharing. Now I've got to find a tissue.

The picture of your Dad takes my breath away. So much love in his eyes.

So much love in your words.




Beautiful post amy.


That 4-some of him with Ezra. OHMYGOD. Sweet Jesus, that hit straight to my heart. There are NO WORDS that can describe that moment in time. None. You couldn't have captured another moment like that.


So glad for you and for Ezra that you took those stunning pics. I see love, not illness. Hugs.


When my dad died, we hardly had any photos of him because he was the one behind the camera. Now when I take a thousand pictures of the children, I make sure that there are some of me,despite how much I hate having my photo taken. They won't give a rats about the wrinkles or the bad hair day. I know they wont


Damn, that was some powerful stuff. It riled up so many feelings in me just reading it, I can't imagine how it felt to write this. I do not relish the day when I will be dealing with the loss of my parent, but when I do, you bet your ass I am going to be re-reading all of your posts about your dad.


oh my goodness, the pictures of Ez and your dad have me in tears. I lost my dad years before I even thought about having kids. Now I would give anything for my dad to have met my children...what a treasure you have in those pictures and the memories of seeing them together.


The last image I have of one set of grandparents is that of someone happy with life, their great-grandkids around, and smiles on their faces - although, tired faces. A month later, one of those grandparents, my grandfather, passed away. I did not go back to visit for those last few days. I had the memory I wanted to keep.

A year or two later, I took a trip with my two little ones so they could meet their grandmothers in case anything happened to them - so we could have pictures and memories. Quickly after that, one of my grandmothers had a stroke. Off to the nursing home she went. Then she had dementia, and it was all downhill. She died recently. But I never once, in the past four years visited her. I had my pictures of her and my babies, and my good memories. Selfish? Sure.

But I watched my mother die when I was 18. All long and drawn out. Fuck that breast cancer spreading to her lungs, spine, brain... I have maybe 3 pictures of her in the last few months of her life. I never look at them unless I accidentally pull them out of the box of pictures. The only ones in rotation on my computer are the ones from better days.

But much like the commenter above said (I'm sorry, I didn't look for a name to give credit to), I'd give anything to have a picture of my mom with my kids now. I do make sure when my dad is visiting to get pictures together. I am SO glad you took those 4 pictures of Ezra and your dad. They show the joy, pride, and love of a grandfather :) And the fourth one of your dad cradling Ezra's delicate little head with his hand just gets me weeping even thinking about it.

Thank you for sharing, and for your honesty. I think you've really helped people with this entry.


In Autumn, god willing, we will be a week on vacation. With my mum and dad. I will take every opportunity to get as much pics as possible. For me AND my kids.
Only recently it hit me that he will not be around much longer...
Thanks for sharing.


You just made me cry in my little cubicle here at work. OMG. So good. We lost my fiance's mom to Cancer the week of Thanksgiving and we had the same picture-taking debacle. And we didn't take them. We have pictures of her with our toddler, but it's not the same. God, I miss her every day. This post was just wonderful. Just absolutely wonderful.


I love that photo that your mom took. It's wonderful.

You made me tear up at work again, though.


Just yesterday I attended the funeral of a good friend's mom who died last week after a 200 day battle with pancreatic cancer. My friend had posted a picture on instagram about 10 days ago of her and her mom sleeping. She was snuggled against her mother who was bald, limp and clearly very sick. But her mom still nestled her chin into my friends hair. Through the illness all you could see was love. It is the most beautiful picture I have ever seen of a mother and daughter.

Go easy on yourself. It is so hard to know how to navigate times like that.


Thinking of you today. It has taken me nearly 3 years before I could look at photos and smile instead of feeling like I was suffocating. xoxoxoox


My partner's grandmother died today. I am so glad that I took photos of our daughter with her at the first "final" visit we made right before Christmas.

LD's Mom

Those pictures are absolutely beautiful!


Making me cry now... One of my best friends died from cancer almost two years ago. I didn't take many pictures because the time at her bedside felt too holy, and I didn't want to disrupt that sanctity with a camera. But now I treasure the few pictures I did take, because they are a record of HER and the love that was in that room as we all stood as witnesses to her passing.

Even for people who have loved ones who aren't ill: Take pictures. My husband's grandmother and our daughter's namesake came unexpectedly to help me while I dealt with cancer right after our daughter was born. I took many pictures that week, even though this wouldn't be the only time they met. Some of them I even felt a little bad about taking, since Grandma was in her night robe. But then, Grandma passed away suddenly only 2 days after returning home and those pictures were all we had.

Never assume there will be a tomorrow when love is on the line.


So much love to you. And your Mom.

And that last photo, with your Dad's hand on Ez's head in a big squishy hug? Perfection.

(Also, my family takes pictures of the deceased in their casket at the funeral home. That right there is where I draw my line in the sand.)


The last pic with Ezra.....hugging him. Oh my gosh, tears streaming down my face.....

I'll be thinking of you this month, anniversaries like these are always hard.


So sweet. You have a very tender way of writing.


Thats it. Im crying. Beautiful post.

Lisa Ann

My dad had just died, my mom was nearing the end of her battle with ovarian cancer and my uncle insisted on taking some group shots. 10 years later I can finally look at them.


Heartbreaking, and yet somehow heartwarming at the same time. You have such a gift, Amy.


Girl, don't make me cry!!
Just kidding (sort of- I got teary but didn't actually sob :)

I feel so thankful that you let us, your readers, get to know your wonderful dad even just a little bit.
I love seeing the pictures of him you share with us.
Thank you. ***HUG***


My dad died when I was seven, and they never let me see him in the hospital because they didn't want me to have memories of what he looked like after his accident. I still have mixed feelings about it. I am so glad that you have what pictures you do. They are beautiful. The one of your dad hugging Ez close... just... *sigh*

Now I have to go explain to my two year old why mommy is crying at the computer.


My grandpa is 85... he's got cancer but it's in check and every time I visit him I take my camera but leave it shyly tucked away in my purse... it will be different this time, thanks to you and your lovely words.

Sue C

I lost my dad last May. It was sudden, not expected, but he WAS 88. I miss him terribly. Our daughter is expecting our first grandchild any day now. It is a bittersweet joy when I think of how much my dad would have loved having a great granddaughter!


Made me tear up, very poignantly written Amy.


I never often, but never comment.!

The four of the baby and your Dad are heart warming and bring a smile to a person's face. The last one in that set? With Ezra's head on your Dad's chest and his hand protectively on the back of the baby's head made me cry. Thank you for sharing this.


Oh, sweetie. It is so, so hard.

Mari Needs a Sitter

My grandmother past away 9 yrs ago. Until now, my mom would never look at any of her photos. I guess she misses her a lot.


Your dad has the sweetest smile.

Sheri Bheri

I second the idea that you should make sure there are pictures of YOU too! Don't you LOVE to see what your Mom looked like at your age? I know I do. She hated how she looked, but I think she was beautiful. Also, you'll love to see yourself looking so youthful. And put away that instagram crap - take NICE pictures that look NICE, not 'arty'.

As for your Dad, I just want to warn you that sometimes it's the 2nd year that's hardest. Because you've braced yourself against the "firsts" but not against the "subsequents". So don't be surprised, because it continues to SUCK. I'm 3 years out, and it still SUCKS.


A little sliver of forever in photos.


I just lost my Pop (Grandfather) 11 days ago. The last pictures I have with him are from January for our last Christmas get-together. I last SAW him on Feb 12th, bringing along my daughter, his 25th out of 26 great-grandchildren (we like to birth some babies don't we?) We had such a nice time, my Mom was there, as she had been since his heart attack back in Nov. I talked to him 2 days before he passed. He didn't sound like the man I always talked to on the phone, and it did bother me. I'll always miss his laughter, smile, and conversations.
Along the line of pictures, if you have any of you & your Dad - hang them up. I have my grandparents wedding portrait now hanging in my living room for all to see. Even though I wasn't around for that time, they both are a great looking couple. Also, it doesn't hurt that they weren't married with the traditional grab, just nice suits, smiles on their faces, happy to have found each other. What I wouldn't give to have just 1 more day, but I'll get my chance when I see them again when it's my turn.
Hugs to you Amy :)


Thanks for this. I'm glad I found it today, it's my dad's birthday and he passed away three years ago. I wish I'd taken more pictures too, but I treasure the ones I have.


When my grandmother was declining, everybody told me to take photos. I couldn't. I couldn't even see her. I just... could not do it.

Several years later, I do not regret my decision. The version I remember of her is significantly happier than what some other people remember. Maybe they were braver than I was, maybe not. Who knows.

Becca Lynn

You picked very well.

Also, I'm sobbing like a baby at my desk. Big, ol', crocodile tears. Thanks, Amy. Thanks a whole lot.

(Meant both sarcastically, and seriously. :-) )

Lindsay @lilloveandluck

New here. This was just so beautiful. Those pictures, just melted my heart.


Bawling at my desk but such a touching and wonderful account. The pictures are so moving and wonderful. Where's my tissues....


Amy, I think you're one of the funniest people I've ever read. And then, the I read posts like this and I'm in awe of your gift. You're an amazing writer.

I'm so very sorry for your loss. You do such an amazing job of honoring your father in your writing and powerfully remind us to love fiercely.


Such great pictures, but that last photo of him holding Ezra to him made me teary. I have not been in your place but I can totally understand your feelings of hesitation to take pictures. We're human...and death is an impossible thing to deal with when you love someone as you loved your dad.


This was really a nice post and I love that last picture of your dad giving baby a big cuddle too. We are near the end with a close family friend who has been putting up a big fight against the stupid fucking cancer too. His wife takes a lot of pics and it is hard to see them sometimes, watching him get more and more frail and unlike himself. But he is still himself on the inside and at least we can know that when we look at those pics. It helps a little.

Traci Martin

I miss my Mom.

Deb Vallet

I occasionally delurk to tell you how great I think you are. This is one of those times.


I LOVE the last one where yours has him cuddled.

I took a pic of my dad and I before he passed, of us holding hands. I felt like such a dork and it took me so long to get the nerve to do it. He didn't mind and I am so glad I did.


I have some video (in fact, the only video I have of her) of my mom about 8 weeks before she passed away, when she still looked like "her." I'm glad I didn't take photos of her when she was at her sickest, because now my only mental pictures of her are of her when she was well. Eff cancer, indeed. Straight to hell.

My Little Otter



Oh, Amy. I was already crying at this, and then the pictures of your dad with Ezra are just so sweet. I couldn't even swallow. I am very, very happy that you have these photos to treasure.


My sister is dying of cancer, I just arrived back home over the weekend from a seven month stint of taking care of her.

All through out the last seven months I've struggled with taking pictures - of her, of her with her daughter, her with her own siblings, parents. It's exactly as you've described it for me too.

I know I will treasure those photos someday, the ones that I have managed to snap, but damn if I don't want to remember her in my mind through photos of her when she was healthy, independent, and enjoying life.

I just wish dealing with sickness and dying and life was just .... easier. xoxo

Plano Mom

I wish I could make it hurt less. But I can only tell you it will hurt less often.

Isabel @AlphaMom

i love that mobile. you are surrounded by all the important men and boys of your life. They are all with you, right there.

Amanda Hill

Oh man. I ran across your blog randomly since I'm a new-ish blogger myself, and was brought to tears by this piece. So, so good. And I'm a very harsh critic. Seriously. What a great piece. And those pictures are heart-wrenching.

Amanda Hill


Your men!!!

so lovely - brings tears to my eyes.


Wow, I have tears in my eyes looking at the photos of your dad holding your son close. Beautiful. Close your eyes and see your photos there. Try not to beat yourself up about not taking more photos. You did the best you could. A big hug to you.


I have a picture of my mom holding my dads hand. Hands only. wrinkled, weathered, 52 year old wedding bands, holding a rosary...hours before he died...It is so beautiful
I am so glad I took it. I took one of my hand and his but none as great as my parents.


that last one of them hugging just made me burst into tears. Glad you have the photos.


Going to see my dad at the hospital tonight, so I needed to read this. Thank you.

Mrs Q

Oh, my heart. Those photos.

I'm pretty sure I was one of the folks urging you to take photos. It does feel wrong at the time. So intrusive and raw. But you don't need photos to keep him with you. I'm pretty sure I'll never forget the smell of hospital green beans, and that's a memory I don't try to hold.

My sister has a few photos of my dad with her newborn son. He was too weak to hold him, and has such a sweet, sad smile on his face. My dad never met my son, so the one my mom snapped of him rubbing my belly in the hospital is all I have. He's thin and tired. The photos I display are from better, happier, healthier days, but this one is in my son's baby book. Because I look at it and remember his reaction when I told him I was finally pregnant. That's something I don't ever want to forget. And photo or not, I can't imagine I ever could.

It's been seven years, and recently my sister and I met with a spirit medium. Along with a lot of things, the medium told us that my dad wanted us to know that he is always watching over us. Especially over our boys. I'm sure your dad is watching over you-- and his boys--too.


Oh. my. gosh. Having to try real hard not to have an ugly cry. Those last shots are just beautiful....what a treasure!


His joy in holding Ezra is palpable. If you believe as I do he is hanging around his grandkids and you all the time happy as a clam. If you don't, recognize how much joy he experienced at that moment amidst all the pain and denial of that time. You did good enough.

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