When we rise to greet each day the questions begin spilling forth faster than the coffee can brew. ‘Am I going to be on time to work?’ ‘Is that doctor’s appointment today?’ ‘Is there enough money in the checking account to pay the bills this week?’ But few have ever had to ask the question Suzie Lawyer is forced to answer daily, ‘how will I raise my six children all by myself on this day?’
The Lawyer family’s story was gliding along nearly fairy tale lines until tragedy struck three years ago, as it so cruelly does, with zero notice. Kevin picked up his six children from school that afternoon fully unaware of the accident that would take his life only moments from uttering a goodbye, ‘Baby you’re hot‘ to his beautiful wife. One father went home to the God he loved passionately that day, while his children and wife remained stunned in gaping loss.
Life seemed to shatter in an instant for the Lawyer family and yet life continued at breakneck speed in the world that surrounded them. When dealing with such devastation it feels like all of life should come to a screeching halt. It feels like the world should stop and take notice of the preciousness of what’s been lost. But, it doesn’t. Life just keeps moving. How many people ever stop to consider the possibility that the sullen person standing beside them in the grocery line may have just lost their husband a week earlier?
How has Suzie summoned the strength to lead her family over these last three years? A continual dependence on God pulls her out of bed every morning to face the world as a single mother to her 6 children. She trusts in the promise that God will be true to His Word and redeem what’s been lost. She knows He can bring beauty from ashes and promises to do so in her life. She’s fully aware that on this side of eternity she’ll never know why she’s had to walk this road of suffering and loss and that’s where the trust comes in.
The life of every family is bound up in a story that weaves its path into that of so many others waiting to be told. Suzie’s favorite illustration to help her cope is that of a tapestry. Viewed from the back all you see is a tangle of interwoven threads that appear to have no rhyme or reason to them, until you turn it over and beauty is on display. Suzie’s tangled web of threads this side of eternity will be shown for the beautiful tapestry her life was creating when she meets her Savior face to face.
If only grieving came with a schedule, but it’s an unpredictable, hard to be wrangled beast. There are always ‘firsts’ without Dad, and they just keep coming, even after 3 years. Some are easy to anticipate so you know to brace yourself; others sneak up on you in ways that leave you gasping for air.
This was the first Lawyer family portrait since Kevin died. For years Suzie resisted officially recording their ‘new’ family because it would just be so obvious that Kevin was gone. Who would voluntarily sign up for that kind of painful acknowledgement?
Suzie’s decision to have a family portrait session was at the urging of her oldest children. I get the sense that there is a desire to point to the triumph of the human will in the midst of such devastating loss. ‘Look, we’re still here and we are still a family, despite the hell we’ve gone through.’ The children even thanked Suzie on their way home for taking this step to record their family in ways they will be able to point back to years from now.
Healing is taking place at all different levels within the Lawyer family, there are steps forward and there are steps backward. Suzie lost the man she loved since she was 16, the man who showed her the security and joy that could be found within family. Grieving that kind of loss is not something that has a scheduled healing process. There’s no list of items to check off to mark when healing has occurred. Grieving just doesn’t contain itself in neat boxes as we’d like.
I knew the significance of this session to the kids so I wanted this to be an experience that left them anticipating what we had C A P T U R E D despite the loss that would be evident. I worked to include their suggestions, let them choose spots for their portraits and tried to highlight their individual and corporate interests so they would be seen for the beautiful young men and women they are becoming.
It was near the end of the session and initially the idea was that the kids would get their feet wet in the stream. They were more than eager to oblige and had a blast stomping around! When we realized all the recent rain would have them sinking 6 inches into the muddy stream bed mom could have freaked out and instead chose to let them enjoy it and C A P T U R E shots that speak to childhood joy. (thank You Lord no one fell in all the way!)
Natalie Grant’s lyrics to “Held” couldn’t fit the Lawyer family better:
“Who told us we’d be rescued
What has changed and
Why should we be saved from nightmares
We’re asking why this happens to us
Who have died to live, it’s unfair
If hope is born of suffering
If this is only the beginning
Can we not wait, for one hour
Watching for our Savior
This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive, this is what it means to be held.
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We’d be held.”