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It’s been almost two years since my husband passed away from cancer, 19 months since the release of my book, “The Apple of My Eye,” and one year since I published anything written on this site. With the exception of my book, I’ve been largely silent since the passing of my husband.

I feel like a fish out of water.

But life hasn’t remained stagnant. COVID happened and seems like it’s here to stay. My kids and I have been working our way – slowly, surely, and uniquely – through grief. This website has undergone a massive platform change and it took a whole YEAR for it to finally be finished. 2021 was my best year ever for the photography business! And I’m dating again.

I have no idea where the future is heading, but God is present, active, and very much at work.

Yes, God is before us, behind us, and beside us. We not alone in the uncertainty of what is to come.

Maybe you find yourself deep in the aftermath of a divorce. Maybe your teen is struggling with addiction and you’re clueless as to how to help. Perhaps you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of a dream you once held dear. Maybe you’ve fallen away from church and COVID has taken a toll on your friendships. Maybe you’re lost in a sea of medical bills, appointments, and worries. Maybe you can’t forget, can’t forgive. And your heart feels tender. Or broken. Maybe it’s just all TOO MUCH, and you’re over it. Maybe you don’t know where to start or how to start over.

I don’t know where you find yourself today. But if you’re like me, you’re in a bit of a transition season.

Let’s ask ourselves three important questions…

  1. Where am I?
  2. What do I want?
  3. Who is with me and for me?

Sit with the questions. Sit with the answers. Let yourself feel and let yourself hope. Be grateful. And be open to the surprise of what you might uncover and discover as a result of this sitting with your life. Just for a moment. Be still. Be still some more.

Then, when the time is right, when you know in your heart, your soul, your very being, that the time is right to move along, to move through, to move forward towards whatever that next thing is? Do it. Begin again. Know you have everything in you to lead the life God purposed for you and only you. You are here for a reason. You’re not finished yet. Not only will you get through this, but eventually, you will thrive. Yes, thrive.

Begin again.

There is more for you. The best days of your life are indeed, AHEAD. Believe it.

Begin.

Again.

The one-year anniversary of my 46-year-old husband’s passing is approaching in six short weeks. The idea of having an annual memorial event crossed my mind fairly soon after his passing. In fact, the concept was clear from the start. It’s never changed, never wavered. But months slipped away and I honestly forgot about it until a few weeks ago when I realized that the one-year anniversary was approaching and this was my ONE chance to start a memorial event or add it to my list of great ideas that never materialized. For better and for worse, I picked up the vision I had months ago and decided to go for it.

Before we dive into the back story and details, I want you to know that I dream big. I also dream deep. My visions are bigger than my britches, most often holding deep meaning for both me and those impacted by implementation of the vision. I confess. This dream is big. But even mores0, it’s deep. In order for this memorial event to work, you might have to dig deep. You’ll likely have to get at least a LITTLE more courageous than you normally would. You’re going to have to do things you would do if you were living your last days of life.

Why am I doing this, you might ask? What compels me to do such a thing?

My husband of 21 years and father of our three children battled eye cancer, then eye cancer that metastasized to his liver, abdomen, rib bones, spine, and lymph nodes for a grand total of five years two months. We HAD TIME and MADE TIME for a proper diagnosis and the very best treatment and trials we could find. We prayed, garnered support, and did everything, absolutely EVERYTHING in our human power to give him the very best chance at life. A much LONGER life is what we wanted, of course. But we got five years two months from the time of diagnosis to the time of his passing.

Shortly after we found out my husband’s eye cancer had metastasized, I began reading heavy duty research articles. I’m talking HEAVY. One after another, every step of the way, I’d read everything I could find that applied to his incredibly rare form of cancer – the treatment we were receiving, the likelihood that any given treatment or trial might work, the ins, outs, probabilities and prognoses of pretty much everything we went through. As a result, I spent almost two years preparing myself for what the inevitable result would likely be. The downside of this is that I bore a heavy mental, emotional, and spiritual burden. The upside is that I had lots of opportunity to grieve and be prepared.

My husband approached our eye cancer journey with an optimistic spirit, as he did everything in life. He was determined to continue living life well and not let cancer interfere with the ups, downs, and monotony of everyday life. His greatest desire was for life to be as normal as possible. So we went to treatment, traveled extensively for trials, had all the required routine and non-routine scans, and took ALL the bloodwork and then some. But after each of those cancer events, my husband wanted to turn cancer OFF and not think about it until the next treatment, the next trial, the next scan, the next time he had to go in for bloodwork. He successfully compartmentalized cancer from the rest of his life for a very long time. In fact, for HIM, the reality of his cancer getting worse didn’t truly kick in until LESS THAN THREE MONTHS before he passed away and things were looking pretty dire. We got word that the cancer had spread to his rib bones and abdomen lining on December 20, he stopped working on January 13, we were told the cancer had spread further to his spine and lymph nodes and that he had “weeks” to live on January 22, it was time for hospice on February 14, he entered hospice on February 21, and passed away March 10, 2020. The downside of all this is that my husband didn’t have as much time left as he thought he did. The end TRULY crept up on him; I know for a FACT that he did NOT finish some things he intended to finish. The upside is that he lived the last two years of his life fully, without concern, with a spirit of optimism only he could pull off. And that is to be commended.

For quite a while, I’d been thinking that I wanted ONE last dance with my husband. I couldn’t remember the last time we slow danced together, I loved memories of dancing with him, I wanted to feel close and intimate that way one last time, and I wanted to know when our last dance was so I could soak it all in. But to be completely honest, I was seriously reluctant to share this desire with him. I know it sounds crazy given the fact that we were together for almost 25 years and married for almost 22. But he wasn’t a super sappy, overly romantic kind of guy, and given the fact that our children were only 8, 14 and 17 at the time, we’d agreed that he’d place all of his extra last-days energy into the kids. But the thought of a last dance kept coming to mind. It was a deep desire of mine. So much so that I had the song picked out. Sometime between January 22 when we found out he had weeks to live and February 21 when he went on hospice, I shared my wish with him. I told him I wanted one last dance. But it was too late. He was too weak. Cancer had taken too much from him. He didn’t have the mental or physical wherewithal for anything other than surviving each day. He barely made it through three last one-on-one dates with each of our children. He could barely get himself upright enough to eat the dinner my friends brought over for our last date night in bed. We never had that last dance.

In contrast, we said ALL the last words we needed to say to each other. Our first round of last words started with our last date night, which was in bed, fully hosted by four of my friends. One friend created a list of discussion questions that covered the span of 25 years we’d spent together. It was something we could do in bed. And thankfully, he was still fully coherent at that point, so we covered every question and he didn’t miss a beat. It was during that conversation that he shared the biggest single impact I had on him in our 25 years together, and it was BIG, something he’d never shared with me before, and honestly I was taken aback because it was the greatest compliment he could give me knowing all I knew about him. He said I made him a more Godly man. There were lots of last “I love yous.” In the final days, that’s all you really need to say. Just one more time. One last time. In case it’s the last time. There’s nothing more to say, really, when the end is near except “I love you.” Then came what could have been his last words, on day 11 of being bed bound, less than 18 hours before he passed away. He had been in and out of coherency for six days (mostly incoherent to be honest), so when he said one last 8-word sentence of mutually edifying gratitude that brought us all the way back to the first six weeks of our relationship in the spring of 1995, it was the truest, most meaningful thing he could say to bring things full circle for us. I honestly thought those were his last words to me. But they weren’t. Six hours later, he woke up and his eyes were glazed in a way I’d never seen before. I knew things weren’t good. I knew this might be his last day. It was in that early morning hour that he MIRACULOUSLY mustered up his true last words to me. Two sentences. One 11-word sentence telling me how he’ll be with us. And one LAST three-word sentence. “You’re the best.”

He passed away 12 hours 45 minutes later.

I feel like I should end this now. I want to. I really want to.

But this is not our end.

We are still alive.

We have a chance, my friends. To have that last dance. To say those last words to someone special.

We. Are Still. Here.

If you think you’ll have time at the end of life to do all the things you want to do and need to do, I promise you might be wrong. Only God knows the number of our days. So better to live now, friends.

Let’s do two of the things that mattered most to us – one we WEREN’T able to do and one we WERE able to do – in my husband’s last days on earth. Enjoy one last slow dance with your spouse, fiancee, boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other, partner, lover, flame, forever, your person, whatever you call them. Share last words with a loved one.

Last Words. Last Dance. Choose one. Choose both. It’s up to you. Follow your heart. It’ll guide the way.

On the one-year anniversary of my husband’s passing, March 10, 2021, choose a special slow song, turn off the lights, light a candle, and dance with your love. Soak in the moment. Enjoy it. Be fully present. Just dance. Or maybe you feel called to share words with someone special. Maybe you need to call someone and forgive them. Maybe you’ve been holding back and simply need to say “I love you.” Perhaps you need to text and tell someone why you’re proud of them or how they’ve had a positive impact on your life. Maybe you need to send flowers and include the deepest, most meaningful words you could ever tell someone on a tiny 2 x 3 card. I don’t know what it is you need to say. But you know what it is, you know who you are, and you know who that special someone is. After we’ve danced and shared words of importance, we’ll gather together in a private online space – a private Facebook group – where we can share our experiences with these “last” words, this “last” dance. Maybe you’ll share a lot with the group. Maybe you’ll share a little. Maybe you’ll share a video of you dancing. Maybe you’ll share a photo. Maybe you’ll summarize in one quick sentence. Maybe you’ll write the story out so we can hear the whole thing. I don’t have any expectations other than I want to be a part of creating something holy out of my husband’s passing, and I hope you’ll participate and share SOMETHING in the private Facebook group so we can all learn and grow from one another’s stories.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it. It’s easy and yet SO vulnerable. I ask you to consider taking part because this will ONLY work if people participate. If it goes well, I’d like to host this memorial event every year on March 10, the anniversary of my husband’s passing. I believe there’s potential here for holy, life-changing moments. So let’s make it happen. Let’s live. NOW. Let’s do this. Let’s live March 10th as if it’s our LAST with last words, a last dance, or both. Please and thank you. Let us love and live.

If you have ANY interest in participating in this memorial event now or in the future, please click here to join the private Facebook group I’ve named Last Words. Last Dance. Between now and March 10, I’ll be sharing updates, reminders and helpful hints. And on March 10, the one-year anniversary of my husband’s passing, we’ll join together to make this thing happen.

 

 

Last week, I woke bright and early with an idea on my mind as clear as day. I knew I had to make it happen. It was the perfect pairing of writing and photography, the perfect way to honor all I’ve seen, all I’ve experienced behind the lens. Yes, this is a new series that will consist of letters to moms I’ve photographed through the years.

You might be wondering how on earth I’ll do such a thing. Or perhaps WHY?!

Let me tell you.

As the years have passed in my life as a photographer, I’ve noticed there are certain types of moms I work with, certain personalities, certain categories of moms shall we say. After a while, you see the patterns again and again. They’re worth noting, worth recognizing, worth acknowledging out loud. It’s my idea to write a letter to EACH type of mom.

There’s the mom who loves on her kiddos, the mom who doesn’t want to be in pictures, the mom who brings all the props and wants to make everything perfect. There’s the mom who’s stressed out and just wants to get this done, the mom who’s worried she’s going to look fat in pictures, the mom who dressed her kids to the nines. There’s the mom who doesn’t like the way her photos turned out, the mom who’s throwing this thing together at the last minute, the mom who’s lost a child and doesn’t take a single moment for granted. There’s the mom clinging to her baby who’s all grown up now, the mom who does this every year and knows what she wants, the mom who’s worried about her child, the mom who’s depressed, the mom who’s living the last days of her life and wants to leave a legacy.

There are all sorts of moms. Most fit into multiple categories. But by the time I’ve completed a photo shoot with you, I could probably guess which category fits you best. And you would probably acknowledge that as true. Because as women, we know ourselves. We know our strengths and we know our weaknesses. For some reason, I’ve found that photo shoots bring out both our strengths and our weaknesses, the best of us and the worst of us, our darkest places and brightest places.

In this series, I acknowledge you, moms. YOU as mother, mom, mama, mommy, caregiver, and centering force for all concerned when it comes to your family and photo shoots. I write TO YOU and FOR YOU. For your type. For the type of mom you are, the type of mom I see you as, for ALL you bring to the table. This is for YOU. So listen. Find yourself somewhere. See yourself somewhere. One of these letters is for you. And when you do find yourself, when you do see yourself, listen carefully, read carefully, and KNOW you’re loved wherever you are, whoever you are. JUST as you are.

I used to follow ALL the rules. Every one. But the last six years, I’ve been inclined to buck every man-made rule.

So when it came to choosing my “one word” for 2021, I was absolutely NOT going to do it. Nope. NOT going to do it. I didn’t even give it a thought. In eight and a half years of having a website and 11 years of being closely connected to the writing community, I’ve only chosen “one word” once. I was compelled to choose “go” in 2014 and it was the only year I felt compelled to do so. I don’t like to do what everyone else does. I don’t play those games anymore. I want to take my own path, the path less traveled, the path God ordained specifically for me and only me. I don’t follow rules anymore just because that’s what everyone else is doing. I just don’t.

So last night when I woke up at 3:55 a.m. and heard a still small voice say “I want you to go big” when someone had JUST told me to “go big” earlier this week, then seemingly out of nowhere came another word “PREPARE,” I was floored.

Twenty six minutes of quiet listening and several noteworthy insights later, I heard “PREPARE for who she will become.” That’s WHEN and WHY I broke out my journal at 4:21 a.m., writing everything I’d heard the still small voice whisper during those middle-of-the-night minutes.

Whether I liked it or not, my “one word” had been delivered. I knew it in the depths of my heart. I didn’t WANT a “one word” in 2021. I didn’t NEED a “one word” in 2021. I didn’t PICK “one word” any other year except one. But there it was. PREPARE. I knew exactly what it meant, both personally and professionally. I knew that was exactly the word I needed. I knew that was exactly the word I needed to pick. And honestly? I knew that was exactly the word I wanted whether I was willing to admit it or not. PREPARE.

2020 was a life-changing year for me personally. My 46-year-old husband passed away from stage IV metastatic uveal melanoma on March 10, 2020. Life will never, EVER be the same. In fact, every plan I had for the rest of my life has changed. I planned on growing old with my husband; seeing our children graduate, get jobs, get married and have babies; enjoying retired life; holding hands till we were old and gray; and ideally dying within a few years of each other so neither one of us had to be widowed too long before reuniting in heaven. But God had a different story in mind. Since my husband’s passing, God has shown me there are beautiful and brilliant things still to come. My story isn’t over and I believe that with all my being. Yes, the best is yet to come. So I need to PREPARE my heart, my mind, my spirit and my soul each and every day for the things He has in store, for the rest of this story has yet to unfold. PREPARE. I will.

Despite the tragedy of my husband passing last year, 2020 was my very best year professionally, specifically in the areas of writing and photography. On what would have been our 22nd wedding anniversary, I released my first book, The Apple of My Eye, which chronicles our journey from the day of my husband’s eye cancer diagnosis to the day of his passing five years later. And my 2020 photography season was my best yet in both quantity AND quality. I am SO proud of what I accomplished professionally last year. Yet there is SO much more I’ve dreamed up, been called to, and have yet to fulfill. God knows that. I know that. In fact, I’m not anywhere CLOSE to achieving everything I’ve thought of, dreamed of, prayed about and been called to these past 18 years. So yes. PREPARE makes total sense. I can continue on this slow, steady, semi-safe and predictable path. I can continue to make incremental progress towards my long-term goals and dreams. Or I can dive deeper, quicker, more rapidly towards those goals and dreams. If you know me well, you know I’m careful and thoughtful about everything I do. I analyze. I prepare. I don’t leave any stone unturned. I make sure I KNOW I’m doing the right thing in the depths of my heart before I take action. Yes, this is still the part of me that follows the rules…perhaps too much. I want to do what is good and RIGHT. But after a while, after you’ve been called for SO long, after you’ve been dreaming SO long, it’s time to dive a little deeper, a little faster. So yes. It’s time to dive deeper, a little faster. It’s time to PREPARE more actively for that long-term vision. PREPARE *might* include another major website revamp this year, even if I didn’t plan on it. PREARE will include me beginning book #2, digging in HARD and DEEP to get that baby birthed and published sooner rather than later. PREPARE will have me monitoring COVID, looking towards 2022, 2023, and 2024 as potential years for the next major steps towards my long-term goals. PREPARE will have me setting quantitative and qualitative goals for photography, shooting humankind in a way I want to but haven’t yet fully achieved, shooting in places that push me creatively and challenge me beyond my borders. There is SO much more. It’s time to PREPARE for all of it.

Why do I let you in on this? Because you’ve joined me here for 8 1/2 years. I’ve shared so much of my journey. Why stop now? I’ve invested 18 years into this dream, this calling of writing, photography and more we’ve yet to explore. We’re getting there, friends. We’re doing this together. You and me. But there’s more for me. And there’s more for you. So stick with me, will you? I’m accepting this “one word,” PREPARE, for what it is. An undeniable gift from God. Delivered straight to my heart at 3:55 in the morning. My life will never, EVER be the same. But it isn’t over by any means. It’s time to PREPARE. Time to prepare for my life, part two. I knew I was venturing somewhere big when I left my career for writing and photography six years ago, but I had no clue life would change so monumentally the moment I stepped away. So here we are. In this together. I’m excited for me. And I’m HERE for you. Let’s PREPARE for ALL the things God has in store for this day and all the days moving forward. Good or bad. Good AND bad. Let’s do it. We’ve got this.

 

 

My 46-year-old husband of 21 years passed away 7 1/2 months ago. Just typing that sentence makes it real all over again. Who would have guessed I’d be here? Yet here I am. A 44-year-old widowed mom of three.

Nine months ago, just 10 days before my husband went on hospice due to stage IV metastatic uveal melanoma that had quickly ravaged his body, we found ourselves in-between visits from out-of-state visitors. When you have cancer and life is nearing its end, everyone makes their final visits. People come to help because it’s impossible to deny you need help. So we had two days. Just TWO days to ourselves without anyone at our house. I knew in the depths of my heart that it might very well be the LAST two days we had as a family, as a couple, to ourselves.

I wanted to plan something special for us as a family, but it never worked out. On that second night, however, my husband and I miraculously found ourselves kid free at dinner time.

We hadn’t planned this. We weren’t expecting time alone. Yet there we were.

I made dinner. Just a regular old dinner. Looking back, that’s exactly what we needed. A regular old dinner at the table, just the two of us. Honestly, I don’t even remember what I served. It didn’t matter.

It was a tender, intimate time for us, just the two of us. My husband prayed before we ate. He thanked God for his “amazing wife,” for all I had done and all the ways I had been so supportive and sacrificial through our cancer journey. We cried during and after that prayer. It was a holy moment and we knew it.

During dinner, my husband said something so important, so poignant, I knew in that instant it was something I’d never forget.

He asked for me NOT to dread what was next for me, but to be EXCITED. 

For context, this came up during conversation we were having about the last 15 1/2 years of our 21-year marriage, how we had experienced so many crazy, challenging, and often times traumatic events. I admitted I was due for “some good times” after all this. My husband acknowledged that there would be a transition period after his passing for me to take care of business, but once all that was cleared and it was time for me to move onto what’s next, he didn’t want me to dread it, he wanted me to be excited for it.

Tears.

Just tears.

I feel it deep in my bones.

He wants me to be excited.

He doesn’t want me to dread anything.

He wants me to be excited.

That is his legacy and that is exactly what he wanted for me.

Excitement. Zest for life. To LIVE my life.

I said it in the moment and I’ll say it again. I knew this was an important and holy moment. I knew this was something I’d never forget. I knew this was a gift, a treasure from my husband. Perhaps the hardest thing he might ever say to me, but the most important sacrificial gift. This was my husband’s dying wish for me, that I should be EXCITED for what’s next.

So I find myself here.

In this place.

A quiet, beautiful place of true, deep excitement.

I feel it now.

He wanted me to be excited. And I am.

Excited for what God has in store for me. Excited about the possibilities. Excited to take adventures and try new things. Excited to LIVE like I’ve never LIVED before and LOVE like I’ve never LOVED before. Excited to take cool drinks and warm baths, long walks and fast runs. Excited to dive deep and linger long. Excited to cry, to laugh. Excited to make new friends and treasure the ones I have. Excited to hang lights and cozy up on the couch with a warm blanket. Excited to make things beautiful, excited to appreciate the beauty I’ve created. Excited to use my gifts and serve others well. Excited to fall in love again. Excited to say “YES, I do” again someday. Excited to watch my kids grow and find love. Excited to have grandbabies someday. Excited to travel, excited to venture and go places I’ve never been. Excited to feel the breeze blow through my hair. Excited to hang on tight. Excited to live in every here and now. Excited to be a human being. Excited to know I’m not done yet. Excited to know life has not ended. Excited to know it’s just beginning again. Excited to have been given this gift from my dying husband. His final wish for me. To be EXCITED. Hallelujah. I will be, I AM deeply, honestly, truly excited.

 

  1. Sudea Romo says:

    ???? thanks for sharing this. I am following you through Sovann Pan. I am praying for you! 

  2. Sue says:

    Amy, go for it! Love life and live it. These are tough times for everyone but for you these are hard times on top of though times. Get excited and live! Love to you 🙂

  3. What a gift you share with us…I am choosing to be excited FOR you. Sending much love ????

  4. Kevin Shinn says:

    Authentic is the right word. Consider it your new superpower.

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