beauty in the face of darkness. A mother's vow...

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I can't believe a year's almost gone by...
I remember when my girlfriend called me last November. I was in Calgary. She had a favour...
A friend's daughter, Tamarra, had was terminal. She was 18.
Could I do photos she asked.
Absolutely I replied.
Death at any age is tragic. And for some reason, Tamarra at 18 had entered my soul...I was out for a walk in the fresh, crisp, air...mountain back-drop...breath taking as usual and I was dying...
Aren't we all...?

I time-warped myself to 18...knowing all that was in front of me...all that was behind me. The past the future, all the sum of Where was I going, who would I become? What did the future hold? I imagined my days numbered, right down to the beating of my heart...stopping.
And as I walked, looking around.
Nothing had changed and everything was different.
The world around me was brighter than before. I was soaking this all in like the first time I'd seen it...and like the last time I ever would...
Curious, amazed and blessed.
Tamarra was terminally ill.
Imagining I was dying.
We are all dying
cringing yet? ...(because we seem to make realities so effn' uncomfortable)
As I type I cry, and I love that I FEEL it all.
As I type I cry, with goosebumps for the AWESOME people that I get to experience.

I was a little concerned...really, only for a brief moment, that what I was undertaking was weird or wrong. For the reason that most of us avoid the reality that is...death.
And I couldn't imagine turning away from the truth that was before me.
To be in the presence of so much love at it's darkest hour. To be in the presence of a mother who's love for her daughter is a worship...
Is sacred.
She is life. And death. The epitome of what it means to be ALIVE.
Having seen up close, the face of darkness...she is the light.
And leads the way.
There is the path that most of us take...filled with illusions and untruths.
We are literally blind. It offers nothing. When we don't ever have to deal...(which sadly means to feel)...we aren't truly *living*.
Love comes wrapped in darkness. Expect it to break your heart and walk willingly into a fire that may just scar the depths of your soul.
Selfish beings are we to want only the joy, love and bliss that comes as the illusion of perfection.
Life is ugly and hurtful and full of sadness.
We don't ever know one without the other. We have to know both to all.

So I am inspired beyond words for this amazing woman, mother, daughter and friend.
The scars she bares for the world to see are fueled with purpose driven by passion.
Please read her story below...
Her cause is something I truly, truly believe in.
Please participate and donate. Anything you give is a gift.
jodi renée

It never ceases to amaze me how much impact a single photo can have. Sparking emotions so deep we forgot were even there. Frozen moments very much relive, reflect. Over the years we pack our photos into a box, a photo album or leave them on the computer and every once in a while we dig them up to laugh, smile, and cry. We take time to observe the smile of the story that goes along with the photo.  We grieve for our youth, that long weekend or season, perhaps grieving for that person that's no longer with us. Photos - the most valued treasure we have.

Micheal and I met Jodi on November 20th 2010 at the Stedman Community Hospice in Brantford where my daughter Tamarra was living out her final days. When we were delivered the news of her cancer becoming terminal, we vowed to appreciate every moment were were given until the very last. A very good friend contacted Jodi to take photos of us while Tam was feeling good and Jodi embraced the opportunity without hesitating. We planned for her to come to our home on November 20th for family photos. On November 16th, Tamarra took a turn for the worse and was immediately admitted to the hospice for round the clock care. Jodi knew of this and we both agreed to move ahead with the photos.

We wanted the expression of our immense love to be the focus. Jodi showed no signs of being uncomfortable, she stood at the at the end of her bed while we all held her hand, kissed her cheek and her forehead...telling her stories and laughing at the memories. In the ultimate face of darkness, we shed light with Jodi there to reflect this.

When I look at these photos, I see the intense love I have for my daughter. She was a strong, young woman with a calm acceptance of her fate. I look at these photos and I see the strength we gave each other. I remember all the moments we laughed together, all the kisses, all the embraces, all the tears - I remember HER. Everything she encompassed. Who she was. I see the ups and the downs of a family struggling to make it work when there was nothing normal about our lives and I see the unity we created from it. "I fought" - and she did, "Live, Love, Laugh" and we did.

Often death makes makes people uncomfortable; it's the part of life that we're supposed to be sad, angry and resentful over. I would like the world to see death as simply, The Circle of Life. We are all born and we will all die. Some with no warning, some with preparation, and ultimately, the goal is to Live, Learn and Let Go. My daughter had a purpose and that was to teach me the value of unequivocal, unselfish, and unconditional DEEP LOVE...between a mother and a daughter.

In Tamarra's final weeks we visited a Naturopathic Doctor for some holistic oncology healing. We were given no promises, and we wanted to improve her quality of life as much as possible. Tamarra showed signs of improved appetite, skin colour, better sleep patterns and energy. We continued as long as we could. The cost was an issue...borrowing money from family, friends arranging fundraisers to pay for the cost. I realized that had we started these treatments earlier in her diagnosis, we may have had a different result and I started to wonder how many families miss out on such an opportunity due to cost issues. Immediately I vowed to make a difference. I started the long mission of founding the Tamarra Cherryholme Foundation. Our organization financially aids children/young adults to receive holistic cancer treatments and offers grants to the research department at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). It's my way of celebrating my daughter's life in helping others through her experience and love:

After my daughter passed away I looked around and thought "what am I supposed to do now?"

Everything I did, I did for her. My friend answered it quite simply, "Why don't you let someone take care of you now..."

That someone is Michael. He waited for an appropriate time to ask me, after never giving up on me, on us...and on May 23rd 2011 her proposed and I said "yes".

Jodi was our immediate selection for our engagement photos as she shared a very personal, and intimate moment with our family. On a gorgeous day in August...Jodi reminded us of the love we have for one another and how far we've come in our 3 years together. The shoot was simple, quick and the results are forever...lifelong...magic. Typically photographers are strangers, found in the yellowpages, on the internet or a referral from someone. Jodi is much more to us than that...

She's real. Appreciating the flaws and so called imperfections, she creates a space for us to SEE, appreciating them ourselves. We met Jodi under the most unconventional of times...and she brought out the beauty of our family, so flattered and honoured to be a part of our very intimate moments.

When I look at our photos, I see a true love story complete with sadness, anger, patience, happiness, victory, pain, hope, laughter and so much LOVE. I see a future and cherish a past.

More a gift than 'photos' they will forever be a part of our home and our family.
~T. Cherryholme

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