It seemed like years had gone by since Smitty & Debbie surprised me, handing me a pineapple during our lunch together with the news of a trip to Hawaii with them, until we finally arrived. It was March 2008 when we flew to the Hawaiian Islands, we stayed at the Kahala Hotel & Resort on Oahu & it's a trip I hold very dear to me, especially today. Smitty kept calling me his snorkle buddy for the months before our trip & continued long after.
The day after arrival, we (Smitty, Debbie, sons Devon & Dallas, Devons wife Megan with their son Layton & ME!!) went snorkling on a small beach that had a little island not far off, that people swim to. With me having asthma (and terrified of sharks), I didn't think I would ever make it to the island alive but thought I would give it a try, after-all, I was there to have an amazing time & nothing was going to take that from me. I'm sure the whole ocean heard me breathing in the snorkle, but we made it. I was totally scared about swimming back & ecstatic at the same time, so we decided to slowly snorkle in some shallow area around the island then swim back to the main shore. Swimming around a sand bar, we noticed it stretched out pretty far into the water & decided to crawl over the small corner of the island instead. We kept all our gear on & just flipped up our face masks & snorkles. On our hands & knees, crawling across the sand & dripping wet, we started cracking up at how we must look. Soon the laughter really set it, we stopped crawling & started flopping around cracking up on the beach, making even more fun of ourselves... we must look like beached whales now. I can't remember my stomach hurting so much from laughing. After catching our breath we decided to forget the whole idea & just head back to the main shore. Maybe it's one of those "you had to be there" moments but we still told everybody about it & totally laughed & laughed each time. He told that story for months, he would even bring it up here & there when something negative would happen at the office. It's almost like he was making sure I didn't stop laughing, cause my laugh made him smile. The photo above was taken the next day, we went to Hanama Bay but I'll save that story for another time...
I know I say that Jon is the reason behind my photography but let me explain... Jon is my biggest cheerleader, my prince charming, he respects me & continues to love me everyday unconditionally. He's truly the love of my life, but Smitty is the true inspiration behind my desire for the camera...to create images just for him. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about 2 years ago, just months after our trip. I had this overwhelming desire to do something for him, something instead of crying. I had taken the diagnosis a little differently than others, I cried uncontrollably for days but started seeing it as a blessing from God in a way. I know a lot of people would curse me for saying that but you have to find the positive in negative situations. I looked at it as a chance to show Smitty how to stop & savor the little things...breath a little deeper, touch a little softer, love a little stronger, hug a little tighter. If you died in an accident, you wouldn't get a chance to tell everybody that you love them, BUT HE DID. So Jon bought me the camera that helped me make Smittys scrap book. Smittys friends & family chipped in with existing photos, all without Smitty finding out. I was able to surprise him with something I was proud of & that he loved...A gathering of photos, scriptures & a lifetime of loving memories that touched me while making it & it wasn't even my life. There were so many pictures of Smitty being a ham but that's how he was, always making others smile.
Yesterday I lost my snorkle buddy. Telling the story of the beached whales in Oahu just doesn't have the same ring to it, it's missing him laughing with me. Smitty always pointed out to other people how much he loved my laugh, how contagious it was. He smiled everytime he talked about it & he smiled for me when I seen him for the last time, just last week. What a wonderful smile, I will miss him dearly.
P.S. I'm so sorry that Debbie lost her Prince Charming.