Friday, 18 July 2014

And I Say Yes, You Look Wonderful Tonight

It was the middle of February and we were well into that cruel last two weeks of summer that breaks the back of the most Teflon-coated of Australians. I knew the day was going to go into the high thirties (over 100F for anyone reading in the US) and to 100 percent humidity; by 10am or so my expectations had been exceeded. I was feeling guilty and under-prepared, almost paralysed with fear at the prospect of having to go out and do what I promised I'd do. At having to go out and do anything really. For weeks I'd been saying  to Danny I can't do this, I've just got nothing left to give anyone. And now it was the day; my cousin's wedding day, and I was the photographer.

Since early November my immediate family's whole existence had been rightly consumed with dealing with my mother's illness around the clock. I put my life on hold for her. I'm not saying this because I regret it for I'd do it all the same again in a heartbeat. I'm simply stating what happened, how we shelved everything else in our lives for Mum: work, leisure, plans, the future. We lived from day to day and sometimes hour to hour as we rode the roller-coaster of the disease's progression. 

My mother and I had some frank discussions about dying. I remember driving her to a chemotherapy session one morning with Mount Warning and the canefields wizzing by the car and she came out with; 'I'm not scared of dying, Anna, I just don't want to'. I'm sure she didn't realise she was quoting a Robbie Williams song.

Mum was gravely ill before the wedding but still very determined to go. This was not only because the bride was her grand-niece and god-daughter but because Mum lived life with a zest and enjoyment uncommon to see, and she simply would not allow anything to rob her of that enjoyment. So we held our breath right up to the day of the wedding; wondering if Mum would be well enough, wondering if we should just wrap her up in cotton wool and keep the world out, wondering if we should just let her go and come what may even if it was bad. Of course it was not our decision what would happen; not now, not ever. 

So I got up the morning of the wedding terrified, drowning; then I remembered what happened when Mum first told me she was sick. I told her she couldn't die because I couldn't live without her. She said if that was the case, then she hadn't done a very good job raising me. Of course I realised Mum was right, and if she could get up as sick as she was and dance Zorba the Greek then I could get up, put on my big-girl skirt and get on with it. I could shoot this wedding and make it simply the best, most bad-ass wedding I'd ever shot in my life. Or at the minimum not have a breakdown trying.

The wedding was terrific, the bride looked gorgeous (also the groom!) and in spite of the crippling heat the day turned out wonderfully well. 
My cousins, Mum and I. (image by Danny)
We shot some beautiful work in the rainforest section of the Mount Cootha Gardens. Here I am posing the happy couple and setting up a shot in the soft late afternoon light filtering through the canopy:
images by Danny
And a shot from that series:
I was thrilled a little later to get this one perfect moment for my cousin and her groom, exactly the scene the bride had pictured when we first discussed her photos (except for the totally uncooperative water-less-fall!).

Mum made it to the wedding and she did dance and drink and chat and do all the things you do at weddings. Maybe she did them a bit more slowly and with a few more breaks and with lots of people fussing about her, but she had more gusto than anyone there. During the reception I went over to her a few times to see how she was going. She was always worried about looking sick and once she asked me if she looked alright.

I had the pleasure of saying yes Mum, you look wonderful tonight. 

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