Every autumn, we have our family pictures taken.
We get dressed up, Kaitlyn Huff comes over, and we pose for some family photos. We’ve been doing this for years. Kaitlyn took Ellie’s pictures for the first time when she was two months old. I think Kaitlyn was only a few years older than Ellie at the time.
But now she’s expecting her second child, and I have wrinkles I don’t like to acknowledge.
When October rolled around again, Kaitlyn texted, “Can I come and take pictures of you and the girls?”
This wasn’t unexpected. The nights were cooling off, the days were getting shorter, and the trees were beginning to change colors. Those things meant it was family picture time. I’d been wondering about what to do about them.
Kaitlyn offered the answer.
“Yes, let’s do it,” I replied.
She came on a Thursday afternoon as the sun was in its golden hour. We ran around the yard, hiked down to the blackberry patch, stood next to the newly harvested back field.
Chris didn’t join us. He was still in rehab.
It felt weird and right. It felt sad and joyous.
This was us right now. The girls and I. The day we had our family pictures done, Chris had been gone sixty-four days. When I held up the crushed beer can sixty-four days ago and told him to leave, I thought it would only be a momentary absence and also a forever one.
I thought the worst and the best.
On August 24th, I became a single parent. Chris wasn’t capable or healthy enough to help shoulder this load. It has been me and only me since that day. The girls have seen my absolute worst and, I’d like to think, they’ve seen me at my best. Sometimes in the same moment. Sometimes in the same breath.
We did our family pictures with the three of us because that’s who our family is right now. And right now, about two weeks later, it’s still just the three Graham girls. We are surviving. We are healing. We are laughing.
I don’t know what next year’s family picture will look like. But this one—in this exact moment—was really important to document.
These photos are either going to be a reminder of how we survived the worst moments in our little family’s history or a great introduction to the new family unit we’re evolving into.
These photos are going to be a memory of us still breathing through devastation.
These photos are going to be a souvenir of 2017 and all its setbacks and triumphs.
These photos are us, broken and beautiful, bruised but still standing. Still full of joy. Still loving. Still hopeful. Still trusting God to write the rest of the story in His time and not ours.
These photos are the Graham girls in the fall (in more ways than one) of 2017.