There is comfort in routine and tradition; it’s a balm for the soul. Sundays you’ll find the Briccas and Lomaxes gathered around the table to do life together, not just when it’s convenient, but every Sunday. Because that’s how traditions are born. When time allows, a beautiful spread of home made delights fills the table that Dolores and Lou prepare together. When time is tight, Chinese take out menus are passed around for everyone to pick their favorite. Time together, that’s the big deal. Everyone gathers and shares life, regardless of the stranglehold of modern day schedules. So how appropriate that part of the family portrait time would happen around the very table where laughter, tears, hopes, dreams, frustrations and joys have been shared for so many years. Sundays, regardless of what the week has thrown, the safety net is there to catch them all and pull them together.
Dolores has been following my work and wanting to have family portraits created for years, but a diagnosis pushed it to the top of her ‘to do’ list. After finding out Lou had prostate cancer, Lou’s doctor recommended a complete abdominal scan to see if the cancer had spread. That’s when it was revealed, in November, he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Dolores called Anita and said, “see if Jennifer can fit us in when everyone’s home for Christmas. We need to get this done asap.” Anita, a self proclaimed Daddy’s girl, made it happen.
Lou has been Dolores’s highschool sweetheart, whom she’s been honored to call her husband for the last 54 years. Their retirement years started 15 years ago and have been spent together, enjoying life in the simplicity of daily routines that involve attending mass, hitting the gym, stopping by Dunkin Donuts for coffee, and serving communion to the sick.
Dolores is determined to help Lou fight this cancer with the grit and strength forged in her childhood farm as a coal miner’s daughter. Lou’s first round of chemotherapy caused his kidneys to fail which led to an immediate need for dialysis. He was hospitalized for 3 weeks, all of which Dolores spent by his side, refusing to go home. The family gathered to celebrate Dolores’s birthday, rather than around the table, around a hospital bed. Because that’s what they do, rally as a family.
Part of the time looked bleak, the medicine that was supposed to kill cancer cells was destroying Lou’s body. But Lou’s a fighter and was not going down without one. He clawed his way back and insisted he wanted to recuperate at home, not in a facility. So a chair lift was added to their home, along with a hospital bed so he could continue his recovery in the comfort of his own home. His son Gregg and his brother-in-law Tony built a wheelchair ramp. Dolores made recovery at home her top priority and has never stopped advocating for what was best for Lou.
Cancer and its treatment offers no guarantees. Unfortunately for Lou, the day we were creating portraits, he was feeling awful. However, his daughter Andrea was in town from Las Vegas and everyone was home for Christmas, so a reschedule was not possible. Lou stepped up to be a part of the family portrait time, for his bride who just wanted to have her whole family captured together, knowing the treasure this would be to them.
So here’s to continued recovery and many, many more times filled with laughter and love around the table where the Briccas and Lomaxes will storehouse memories to fill a lifetime with smiles! May the Lord provide the strength, perseverance and joy required for your journey!