Saturday, March 19, 2011

don't wait. please don't wait, make excuses, or put it off.

This is difficult to write. My heart is aching, I'm on my last pair of contacts, Maddox broke my glasses in half last week, so I'm sitting here with blurry, cloudy contacts from crying nonstop for the past 24 hours, and a wounded heart.

Last night at 11 pm, my husband received a call on his cell phone from a number we didn't recognize. The voice mail sounded odd, so he called back. It was the coroner from Macon County, Georgia. He had found a check in my friend's purse from me, with obviously our contact information. He was calling to try to get in contact with my friend Melissa's next of kin. 

That was just the start of the nightmare.

He then went on to tell me that Melissa, her husband Brent, and their two boys (ages 5 and 2), were in an accident on their way to Florida for spring break. Brent was killed, Melissa was in critical condition, but the boys were miraculously unharmed.

My head was spinning, my hands shaking so badly I could barely write the information down legibly on a piece of scrap paper I found in our junk drawer.  My husband had to call Melissa's parents to notify them, while I'm sitting in disbelief on the kitchen floor.

My friend, at age 29, is now a widow.

My heart is breaking, I can't sleep, can't eat, can't concentrate, can't hug my kids enough. I can't stop watching my husband love on our kids, play with our kids, just be with our kids. I'm soaking it all in, feeling grateful, sad, angry, tired, frustrated, defeated and mourning all at the same time.

I hate the phrase "it's not fair." But, this? This. is not fair. I don't understand why God called Brent home before we all felt ready. I don't know why those boys lost their daddy, and Melissa lost her husband. I don't know why. I just keep praying for peace, comfort, guidance and wisdom in the physicians taking care of Melissa, and comfort and love to surround those young boys in this time of loss. There are no words.

I've had a lot of time to sit, think, cry, reflect, and pray tonight. And my mind started wandering to photography.


Photography puts emotions into tangible form. They are constant reminders of our families, friends, the ones we love, the things we do, who we are. They remind us of our baby's first smiles, first steps, our first kiss as a married couple, first day of school. They are such a wonderful wonderful way of capturing life as it happens. A gift.

I hear all the time people say, "Oh, I want to wait until I lose these last 15 pounds of baby weight." "Oh, I want to wait until the baby is old enough to smile." "Oh, I want to wait until my husband gets his hair cut, finally cuts his beard, he wants to lose some weight." "I want to wait until spring/summer/fall/winter." "I want to wait until a Saturday."

I want to wait...I want to wait...I want to wait.

Please. Don't wait.

Don't wait, because you never know when life throws us a curveball, and our path is forever changed. 

Please, embrace the extra 15 pounds, the baby that isn't quite smiling on demand, the husband who has an annoying beard he won't shave, the kiddo with a bad haircut, the "wrong" day/time/season.

Life is happening. This second. Don't wait. Live every day as it's your last. Because we never know when life on this earth is over. It can be over in an instant, a second, a nanosecond.

Tell those you love that you love them. Take pictures, write things down, hug, laugh often, don't go to bed angry. Smile. Hope. Pray. Every day.

Don't wait to take pictures of your family, and use silly little reasons that don't matter in the end as an excuse.

Capture life. As it is. And embrace it.

I thank you all so much for continuing to pray for Melissa and her boys, Dylan and Colton. And also for their families, who are in a nightmare of their own. I pray that God's will be done. I try to remember that God did spare the lives of Melissa and her sons, that I should be forever thankful for that. I pray for strength for the Burns and Hock families. For comfort, for peace, and that they feel everyone's arms around them, loving them, praying for them, comforting them in this time.

This is Brent, Melissa, Colton and Dylan. Please continue praying for Melissa and the boys, for they are about to face the hardest year of their lives.

Thanks so much for reading. For being an ear, a shoulder to cry on.



  1. Thank you for this. It is such a good reminder. I had a very dear friend who was killed in a car accident 16 months ago...her two baby boys (2 and 4 months) in the back seat were unharmed. As her husband prepares to get remarried this coming weekend, I can't help but think about all the memories those boys will never have of their mommy because pictures just weren't all that important to her. Oh, she took them every few months to get their own pictures taken, but never did she jump in the photos as well. As a photographer, I pledge to start encouraging those moms and dads to get some photos with their children. Because you. just. never. know. Thanks again.


  2. Oh Sarah, I'm so so sorry for loss of your friend. I can't even begin imagine the pain that their family is going through.

    It certainly puts into perspective just how precious family photos are. They are truly a tangible memory that will be treasured long after our time on this earth.

    Much love and prayers to their family - and yours.

  3. I am so terribly sorry for your loss & for the pain your friend and her boys are to endure. If there is anything that can be done. Even a kind word in a card, ANYTHING at all...please let me know.

    & I will keep them & everyone surrounding them in my prayers. I will pray that you all can find God's arms around you so that you may find peace through such a difficult time & that all of you may feel the love God has for you & all of you for each other.

  4. This touched my heart. A year ago today my
    my first cousin and childhood beast friend was killed
    Instantly in a car wreck. Her 18 month old died 2 days
    Later. Miraculously her 7 year old daughter survived.

    We still grieve today for Jen and baby Cassie.
    But, we also have peace that they are in Heaven. What
    more could we ask?

    Praying for peace and strength over the
    Long days ahead...

  5. Oh Sarah I am praying for that family and for you! What a hard situation for your friend. Its so hard to understand why things happen the way that they do. If you need anything, an ear, someone to pray with, a bit of a break! We are just around the corner and I would be happy to pray with you if you would like, please let me know if I can do anything! My number is 317-224-6588
    Love Amanda

  6. This is Amanda Bean btw

  7. im praying so hard for them. I lost my dad when i was just a year and a half. There really are no pictures of us and it has always made me so sad

  8. So sorry to hear about your friend's loss (and yours b/c you are her friend and you will grieve for and with her). You made me cry :( You are so right about how pictures capture moments in time that you can never get back...I'm going to try harder to remind this to everyone when they come up with reasons why they need to wait. I will definitely be praying for this family!

  9. This is so sad, and I am sorry for this family's loss. I am praying for everyone, and I am so touched by your words. Everything you wrote is so true. You, your friend and those beautiful boys will be in my prayers. Praying for peace & strength.

  10. I am so sorry to hear this! Many prayers for strength, peace and comfort for family and friends. You're so right about people waiting for the perfect time to have their photos made, putting it off for next time and for so many, "next time" never comes. I lost my brother last month and it was sad to me (especially as a photographer) to realize how few photos we actually had of him! We kept saying we were going to have pictures made with all of us siblings together - it never happened. For so many of us we end up not having a second chance. This is another reminder to capture all those little details and everyday moments that you want to remember and share for years to come! God bless! HUGS!

  11. Thank you for sharing your story. We have a smiliar story. It is about our little girl. She died from a virus unexpectedly. In the month prior to her passing I had taken her to Kiddie Kandid's and spent a fortune - My husband was a little mad. Now his outlook on spending money on pictures is priceless. We couldn't have enough pictures of her. I am so happy that I got all the pictures I did and when Kiddie Kandid's heard about it they gave me everything they had. Pictures are so important!! Take the time to have them done - don't wait. I constantly have my camera with me - my kids keep saying "don't you have enough pictures" and my response is - you can never have enough!

  12. I cannot imagine the loss you are experiencing. But as a photographer, I tell my clients that today is the perfect time to take pictures, and you'll never regret the family pictures you have done- You'll only regret the ones you didn't.

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I will keep you, and Melissa and her beautiful family in my prayers.

  13. Thank you for sharing their story and for encouraging us all...even photographers, to not forget to get in front of the camera. I am going to pass this along, so that we may all be inspired from your words.

    I am thinking about your sweet friend Melissa and her boys.

  14. Beautiful words and yet I'm so very sorry for your loss and those above this comment as well. Would you mind if I re-posted your post? Will be praying for your friend and her family.

  15. Thanks for sharing this story. It was a wonderful reminder for things we take for granted so easily. My heart goes out to their family.

  16. I just want to let you all know that I so appreciate your comments and kind words! I also appreciate those of you that are brave enough to share your stories of loss. Thank you thank you.

    Yes, feel free to share this blog entry with anyone, I hope it is inspiring to those who need inspired and a wake up call to those that need one.

  17. Last year I was contacted to do some family photos, and the client and I touched base and decided to wait until nicer weather in the spring to book an appointment. In March I was listening to the news and had a chilling realization; a local police officer had been shot and killed. It was her husband.

    A few weeks after his death, we spoke and expressed both our regrets in putting off the session, and I told her how much I would love to do some photos of her and her 3 boys, eventually, when she was ready. It still haunts me to know what a blessing and comfort those recent family pictures could have been to all of them.

    It saddens me that the first time I met and photographed that lovely family, they were without their hero.

    Take those photos TODAY.

  18. Not only do you have a gift w/ the camera, you also have a beautiful way w/ words. What a beautiful tribute to your friend and her husband. I definitely want to support them through the event at Lottie Dottie. Be in touch...

  19. I'm so sorry for your loss. wow. and then such words of wisdom to follow, thank you.

  20. As the person usually behind the camera in our pictures, this really is a reminder for me to hand over the camera and be in those shots. And what a sad way to be reminded how important it is for me to be in those pictures.

    What a tragic loss - so sad for everyone.

  21. Thank you so much for this, I had many of the same thoughts when my Grandma passed in November, and even blogged about it. It is so true. We should embrace every bit of what IS our life, instead of always wishing or waiting for something different. My heart goes out to you and your friends and their family. I hope you can find peace in your blessings.

  22. So sorry for your grief, you will see good come from this I know.

  23. Hi Sarah,

    My name is Emily and I actually came across your post from a fellow photographer - first and foremost, I'm so sorry. One can never explain why things happen - and the right words to say never seem to make their way out. However, I just wanted to say - THANK YOU - for sharing this. So often we all get caught up in our busy lives, our crazy hectic schedules ... this is a good reminder to love more, laugh more, dance in the rain more, hug our spouses and kids more, and follow our dreams. You ALL are in my thoughts and prayers. God Bless each of you.


  24. So heart wrenching, thank you for sharing, sending up prayers for your family and Melissa's.

  25. I'm so sorry for your friend's loss- and yours. I feel your pain. My friend lost her husband 5 years ago in the line of duty- leaving her a widow with 2 small children- 5 months and almost 2 years. My heart was broken for her. Luckily, her husband was a photographer on the side, and took family photos of all of them just 2 weeks before he was killed. They will cherish them forever.

    She has written a book about grieving and trying to get through everything. She is an AMAZING writer!! You can also do a search for more on her book.

    She also has an online journal here: This is the oldest post in the archives. She is now remarried to a wonderful man- something she NEVER dreamed she'd EVER be able to get to again. I still cry in joy when I think about how lost she was, to how strong she is now, and she's just amazing. If your friend has questions or anything too- she can even email her through that site. I went to school with Jennifer, and she's now devoted to helping others heal who have lost someone in their lives.

    ((((HUGS)))) to you and your friend and family. I am a photographer myself, and completely know how much it would mean to have those last photos done. Or not to have done them.

  26. So sorry for the loss of your friend's husband, and for her injuries as well. Thank you for talking about never know who needs to see/hear this. May the peace of God comfort you and their grieving families.

  27. I am SO sorry for your loss! You have woken me UP! I started my photography business when my daughter was denied SSI and medicaid. Since then I have not really had another photograoher take pictures of us because I hate my face, my weight, etc, etc. I am finding someone to take our pictures. soon. Thank you for this! Again, I am sorry for your loss and pray for them and their families!

  28. I'm so sorry for the loss your family has experienced and for the loss that your friend's family endures. The journey is just beginning for them and it's a pain that will never go away.
    I was widowed almost 5 years ago. Granted it was Military so it's a little different, it's still SO difficult to endure and begin the 'new life', with raising two kids.
    Thank you for sharing your story and my condolences again. My heart truly breaks for your I know a similar pain.

  29. If you wouldn't mind. Myself and alot of friends would like an update on Melissa's condition. Please and Thank You. Praying for this family.

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  32. So sorry for your loss. I hope Melissa's condition is improving... I can't even begin to imagine what the family is going through. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

  33. this is so tragic,, i lost my first husband on christmas eve 1998 i was 6 mons preg with our 2nd child,, i deff know what this lady is goin thru, ty for sharing this... hugs!

  34. My family and I were at the scene of this tragic accident last week, and my husband and I couldn't sleep at all that night. The wreck was a little after 8:00, and I kept thinking that very soon someone would be getting a phone call that would change their lives forever. I prayed for that someone a lot that night. Now I know a little more about the family and the circumstances. It was a miracle that the mom and the 2 precious boys were spared. I will continue to pray for them and for their families and friends. Thank you for giving me a place to talk about this. It has been weighing so heavily on my heart all week!

  35. Thanks everyone for continuing to pray for Melissa and the boys. Melissa is now extubated and can talk! She has her jaw wired shut for the next 6 weeks, but she is able to speak. She got to talk to Dylan (her 5 yo) on the phone this morning, what a blessing for both of them!

    We had our fundraiser for her yesterday and had an overwhelming response. Over $3,000 raised, and we aren't done yet!

    Praying for Melissa's return to Indy by Sunday. I can't wait to see my friend!

    And Diana, thank you so much for posting. It's amazing to me that you somehow found my blog. I didn't get much sleep that night either, and I appreciate your prayers very much. And I appreciate that you were praying for me, not knowing me, for being the one to receive the initial call. I think your prayers helped me through that night as well!

    You can read more updates on Melissa's condition on her caring bridge website,

    Thanks again, The Hock and Burns families I know are truly touched by every single prayer and kind word.

  36. Thank you so much for sharing this information with us. I was heading back from Florida and stopped an hour short of seeing this accident. I am so thankful that I did not have to see it in person. The pictures on the news were more than enough. Brent, Melissa, Dylan, and Colton were neighbors of mine and we had a wonderful time grilling out and all gathering on the back patio two summers ago when Colton was really little. There were three families that would gather and we were amazed to find that we were all the same age and that we had all been with our spouses since high school. We thought that was probably unusual and loved spending time together and watching the kids play. I will always remember how good Brent was with all of the kids and how gentle he was with Colton. They are all in my prayers every night.