It’s been a bit quiet around here lately, so I wanted to share why. I posted about this on Instagram already, but for those of you that don’t follow me there…
My grandpa was a big part of the reason I decided to become a wedding photographer. My incredibly talented friend Bre Thurston was my sister’s wedding photographer and captured a photo of my grandpa hugging my sister. The look of pride and love on his face was the look he had every time he saw any of his grandchildren. The first time I saw that photo, it brought tears to my eyes and I knew I wanted to be able to give others the same experience.
My grandpa grew up in Taiwan when the Japanese occupied it. He was more comfortable speaking and reading Japanese than he was Mandarin, but he was still completely fluent in Mandarin as well as Taiwanese. He and my grandma moved to the US via the Dominican Republic more than 30 years ago. 10 years ago, my grandpa was diagnosed with kidney cancer. He always hated the doctor, so the cancer was caught pretty late in the process. Luckily, because my grandpa was diagnosed, my grandma went in for a checkup as well and her kidney cancer was caught much earlier on and the entire process was much easier on her. For my grandpa, however, the cancer had spread and the surgery and recovery were difficult. My grandpa recovered, but his health was never quite the same afterwards.
Two years ago, as I was taking Storymaking with Meredith Novario, I came upon the idea to document my grandparents. I started by taking photos of my grandpa making tea. I had the vague idea of doing an interview series, so I took some videos too, asking him about the process. Life got busy, and I didn’t follow through with the interview idea.
About a year ago, my grandpa’s remaining kidney was failing and we thought he didn’t have much longer to live. I asked my dear friend, Felicia Chang Photography to do a half DITL session for us. Best. Decision. Ever. She took the most amazing photos of my family (my grandparents, my uncle, my parents, my sister, my brother-in-law, me and Sam) as we ate breakfast before watching my grandpa make tea and sing karaoke. It was a fairly ordinary day, and looking at those photos, remembering my grandpa’s little quirks and habits, along with the love he held for us, will always make me smile.
When my wedding season started at the end of April, I had just found out my grandpa’s stomach cancer had worsened, he decided to stop dialysis, and he likely had two weeks left to live. As I was driving to the wedding, I was thinking that I wasn’t sure I could handle being at a wedding when I knew that the chances of my grandpa being at my wedding were very low. When I started photographing, however, I realized that it truly brought me joy to be around so much love and laughter and happiness. I wanted to document that for my couples so they can always look back at the photographs and remember. It brought home how incredibly important photographs and videos are, not just of the big, special days like weddings, but also of the little everyday moments.
Two weeks ago, my grandpa passed away. It still feels like I will see him at any moment, so incredibly happy to hear me call him Ah Gong, always telling me how proud he is of me. My grandpa was the best grandpa a girl could possibly ask for and I already miss him unimaginably. In the last month or so, I brought my camera with me every time and took many photos and video clips. Sometimes of the simplest conversations, just him and my grandma laughing together. Another time, I asked him how he and my grandma met, a story I had only ever known the basics of. Even though I will always wish I had taken more, I am grateful for each and every photo and video clip. Photos and videos are important people. Even when times are hard, you won’t regret having photos as a reminder.