Celebrating the Lives of two Women
Trina impacted my life in such a significant way. She was breathtakingly stunning - her smile, her laugh, her energy - she was also strong, opinionated and a bit mischievous.
However, the day I met Trina she was extremely fragile and vulnerable having only recently discovered that her battle with breast cancer was no longer at detente. Having thought she was finished she celebrated with breast reconstruction and a gorgeous wing tattoo that spread across her shoulders. The breast cancer had actually spread to her bones and was ultimately terminal.
We didn’t accommodate cancer as a third wheel to our friendship, but fighting it served as our glue.
Trina met with me outside the parameters of my breast cancer project because she wanted her story to count for more. Together we rallied other women whose breast cancer was no longer confined to their mammary glands. We wrote an article, took more photos, and found ourselves published in the Idaho Statesman.
My follow up article the next summer was a piece I wish I’d never had to have written - Trina’s obituary.
What Trina began with me didn’t die with her breath but has continued to grow being inspired by her spirit. I have published thirteen more cancer related articles because of Trina’s challenge to make a difference, “Just do.”
Other relationships formed due to my friendship with Trina. I was present at significant family gatherings to take photos and capture memories. It was during these times that Jan, Trina’s mom, became friends with me when she saw I was advocating for her daughter. This continued after Trina passed and especially during her memorial service.
I have served as an ordained minister for many years and have helped officiate many funerals. Trina’s was different. She left instructions that she didn’t want tears, only a celebration. When I was asked to officiate her memorial it was outside of my box. That was a good thing.
We shared stories. We drank wine. We laughed. We drank beer. We corrected each other when we started to cry. We drank punch infused with Idaho huckleberry vodka. We danced. We showed photos of Trina’s life. Some of them were mine. I cried. So did Jan. We held each other.
It was by far the best memorial service I’ve ever been a part of.
I captured a photo of some of her close friends spontaneously jumping into the swimming pool. It was a great final image of our celebration that day. It was a great tribute to Trina.
When I wrote a follow up article for the Idaho Statesman in honor of Trina’s life (the idea of my amazing editor at the paper who lost her own sister to cancer) Jan became my biggest fan. We corresponded back and forth and became more connected over our shared love of her daughter. When she informed me that she too had metastatic cancer I was devastated.
I traveled a couple of hours from home to visit Jan in the hospital. She was told she had three weeks to live. She held on for several more months to actually depart this world on the anniversary of Trina’s passing.
This last week Jan’s family and friends included me in her memorial as they scattered her ashes on the Oregon coast where Trina's had been spread.
We rented a beach house, took in the sunsets, and endured the rain. The best moments were the shared memories around the table with stories, laughter and photos. The wine flowed and we sipped two very expensive bottles of whiskey. We walked the beach at low tide finding the right pool to release some of Jan’s ashes. The waves chased us. We assumed it was Jan getting in on her party.
Again I found myself so honored to be in place to capture a spontaneous image of friends and family responding to the presence of their dear ones who have passed this life and yet so significantly remain.