I remember this day, one year ago.


I remember it all so clearly. I had a long night, so I must have only been in bed for two or three hours.  My mother came in with tears in her eyes and I popped right out of my sleep. She came in to tell me my cousin had died. I didn’t understand. This must be some horrible nightmare. This can’t be happening.  But this was reality. I wasn’t dreaming. The words “Dusty died” came out of her mouth.


Just 10 days before that we got the call in the middle of the night my uncle was gone. Two months before that my other uncle, gone from cancer. Just in April… Dustin’s father had passed away.  I asked myself “is she telling me that not only are four gone now… but the fourth is Dusty? Dusty who was only 29 with two beautiful children? Dusty who was the oldest of us grandchildren? Dusty who always picked on me but had the heart of a sweet teddy bear when he wasn’t picking on me?” That Dusty? That’s not possible.”


She left to go see my aunt to take care of her. I walked around the house like a zombie. I felt like the world was on mute. I don’t remember crying that morning.  I just remember my heart physically aching.


I don’t remember a life that didn’t have Dusty in it. All of us grandchildren were always a group. Every year we had that ridiculous photo of all of us stacked up on the stairs.  I watched him go from having green Mohawks to dressing like he was strait out of the 50’s, to covered in tattoos and wearing very loud hoodies.  Dusty was so many people in one body. That’s what made him so unique. So original.  That huge smile. That need to keep up with family traditions. Dusty just wanted love. Plain and simple.   And now I had just gotten the news that he was gone.


I than came out of my paused world to realize… that I had a wedding I had to photograph in just a few hours.


I called my backups. No one could do it. I called the bride, Nicole. She actually was willing to have just a family member use her camera.   I couldn’t do that to her though.


I packed up my gear. I got in the car along with my father who volunteered to drive me to San Francisco for the City Hall wedding.   I went to photograph this wedding. Aside from the fact that Nicole is a dear friend of mine, in the end this was a bride and today was her wedding day.  This was a day for her with her family.


This day was dark for my family. My heart is still just as broken as it was the day he left us a year ago. This day ended a traumatic year for my family. One right after the other. But it also ended with love, and a union between two people and their families.


Life is insane and crazy like that. It’s unpredictable.  One second your heart is breaking into a million pieces, and the next your eyes are tearing up while you watch one of your friends exchange vows with the love of her life.


Today I will try to celebrate his life. Celebrate the good things in life, even when the darker times seem to overshadow it all.  My heart wouldn’t have been so broken by Dusty and my three uncles passings in 2010 had it not been for all the good times I shared with them.


Thank you, Nicole and Nino – for putting something positive and beautiful into this day for me. New Years Eve will not just be a dark memory for me, thanks to the two of you. Happy Anniversary. You are wonderful.