My cousin, Gabe passed away this week after battling brain cancer for the last 2 years. He was just 32.
My parents used to send me to stay with my grandma on Oahu during the summers. I was a little homesick being away from my parents and my siblings, who I oddly missed even though I swear they drove me crazy. But, at least, I got to see my cousin Gabe. He was such a sweet kid and a blast to have as a friend. He never let a friend go at it alone, he would rush by your side despite any hare-brained idea you might have come up with…like starting a small fire in my grandma’s apartment. Oh, boy, did we get lickings that day.
I remember how each summer saw us a little older. We used to just love watching Sesame Street. The next summer it was G.I. Joe…then The Monkeys …then WWF (now known as WWE) and MacGyver. My grandma worked the midnight shift and slept during the day, so we were left to run amuck. Piling the cushions into a giant pile on the living room floor, and jumping off the kitchen counter pretending we were Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat flipping off the turnbuckle. Mixing condiments from the fridge, hoping we could make a liquid explosive like the one MacGyver used to escape the bad guys.
Then Gabe and his mom and brother moved to the mainland. Gabe eventually ended up in California with his childhood best friend, Lopaka. He met a girl, beautiful loving Susan, fell in love, and settled down. Our childhood was now just memories. Then, Monday, I got the call. Gabriel was gone.
I called my older sister at work the minute I heard the news. Despite being aware of the severity of his battle with cancer, we were still stunned. Devastated. My sister brought up the last time we saw Gabe. When Gabe was diagnosed 2 years ago, he and his girlfriend flew over from California to see the family. We had a big family dinner at my uncle’s house. For many of us, it had been years since we saw him and the first time really meeting Gabe, all-grown up Gabe, the man. Gabe was never one for being the center of attention, so I tried not to make a big fuss and treated the night like it was any other typical family dinner. Now, how I wish I had fussed.
I guess my sister feels the same because she said all she keeps thinking is “we should have taken a picture together. We don’t have any pictures with him.” My heart fell as I realized how right she was. We had the whole family together for once, and we don’t even have a picture. Something to have with us now that he no longer is. Something to hold close to us now that he’s not here to hug.
And so I wanted to share that with you. Please PLEASE take pictures. Take them every week…even every day. Take a picture of moments, big and small. Your family on a beach day. Your daughter dancing in her pajamas while watching Yo Gabba Gabba. Your husband washing dishes after a long day in the office. We become distracted by the busy hum of everyday routine, but life is full of moments you’ll want to remember. Even the seemingly mundane moments, like watching MacGyver with your cousin, can become the most cherished of memories.
I’m not saying this as a photographer. I’m saying this as a wife, a daughter, a mom, a friend, and now, a grieving cousin. It can be a professional shoot, but, honestly, it doesn’t need to be. You can use any camera, that point and shoot you got for Christmas, even your camera phone. Just don’t ever find yourself saying those words…
“we should have taken a picture.”
I leave you with the last picture I have with me and Gabe in it. That’s my baby sister, Genesis, with us. I don’t know who took this picture, I don’t know what kind of camera it was. It doesn’t follow any of the composition rules of photography. I could care less. This photo is absolutely beautiful.