“A picture is worth a thousand words,” or so the saying goes. I think the intent of this phrase is that imagery often tells us so much more than mere words can. As a visually-oriented introvert, this rings especially true. So often, words fail me at crucial moments. I never seem to think of the right thing to say at the right time. I struggle to put myself out there. My natural inclination is to be more of a “behind the scenes” kind of girl. Which, I admit, hasn’t served me well in this photography enterprise, but honestly, I don’t think I would change this aspect of myself.  Because of this proclivity, the images I produce seem to have deeper meaning for me; each image conjures a memory, a sensation, a thought.

The image you see below holds particular meaning and, if you can bear with me, will help convey the thoughts I want to share with you today.

Portrait of Child Sledding by Britt Lanicek Photography

A girl on a sled. Everyone has a picture of their kid on a sled, right? But to me, this image is so much more. It will forever be the visual reminder of a day of ultimate highs and lows. This is MY child, Caroline, on her 7th birthday. We went sledding with friends that day. It was her first time sledding on a decent sized hill of any kind. I look at this image, and I can hear her shrieking “THIS…IS…AWESOME…” on her first trip down the hill. Her big toothless grin, because the first of her front teeth had finally just fallen out. Ultimate joy.

I look at this image and see a tired, happy girl curled up in my lap, cup of cold cocoa on the coffee table (marshmallows long gone). I remember the conscious but fleeting thought that if I were a cat, I would be purring. That LIFE IS GOOD. A very good day indeed. And as Caroline fell asleep in my lap, the phone rang. It was Mindy calling to tell me that our friend Holly was gone.

Holly. Free spirit. Contagious smile. Caretaker. Defender of the weak. Animal lover. Vegetarian. Friend. Holly, with her collection of dragons; rescuer of cats and birds. Holly, with bottomless depths of generosity and kindness, and a stubborn streak just as wide.  Who sacrificed so much to be here with us through years of illness and increasingly crippling disability. Who through her experiences, gave those of us privileged enough to know her a glimpse of life beyond our earthly bonds.

I could talk at lengths about Holly and who she was. But I think she’d would prefer that I share with you what her life – and ultimately her death – have taught me.

It’s actually pretty simple: LIVE your life, and live it with purpose. Embrace opportunities to try new things, to do more, to give of yourself. Follow your passions. Create memories. Be a better friend, parent, sibling, child. Tell the people you love how you feel. Stand by your convictions. Be loyal. Do what’s right, even if it hurts. Practice compassion and empathy.

All of this and more. This image of Caroline is so much more than a picture of a kid on a sled.  To me, it’s a reminder to pursue joy in life, and not take it for granted when it comes.  And while life can bring great sorrow, it is not without meaning.  The low points in our lives help us better appreciate our many blessings.  I look at my daughter’s face in this image and I see a little bit of Holly and how she lived her life. With joy. And with purpose.

Flying down that hill, shrieking with delight, ready to run back up to the top for another go.

Holly died on my daughter’s birthday at the too-young age of 46; just one day past her own birthday. During the years of confinement and limited ability, even when words failed her utterly, her indomitable spirit was still there in her eyes – in her very presence.  I have far too few pictures of Holly to remember her by, especially ones of the good times before her illness. But when I look at this picture of Caroline, I will remember her and all she has taught me. I will do my best live my life as she would have; with purpose and conviction. And with joy.

In Memory of Holly Fisher

December 26, 1966 – December 27, 2012