Nursing Homes, Love, Family Portraits and Marriage

A week ago I was hired to photograph a family session. The shoot took place at an assisted living home where my client’s mother resided. My client was the youngest of 9, it had been years since a family photograph was taken, and her mother’s age and health made an updated family portrait a priority. After a quick survey of the facility we decided the most appropriate place would be in the main dining hall in front of the Christmas tree.

As I set up, I noticed an elderly couple cuddled in the back. I didn’t see a coat so I assumed both of them were residents. The gentleman (probably in his mid-70s or 80s) was sitting upright gazing at the passerby’s and visitors. His wife (who looked to be the same age) was sleep, her head firmly resting on her husband’s chest as their two opposite hands were interlocked firmly. It was beautiful; a peaceful and relaxing site.

The entire time I did my shoot, I couldn’t help but to keep glancing their way. They looked so serene, so in love. I even started to imagine what their backstory was. Did they meet in high-school? College maybe? Better yet I bet he was in the army, met her at a diner one winter when he was in town and she wrote him every day after ‘till he came home. I wondered how long they’d been married. 40 years? 50 years? 60 years? Did they have children? How did they celebrate their anniversaries? When did the dementia start? When did she become nonambulatory? How hard was it on them to move to assisted living?

But ultimately I was wondering, “Is this me and my wife in 40 years?” Will I hold her as warmly and tightly as this man? Will I stay with her through nursing homes, assisted living, etc? Will I still comfort and love her with the same passion and determination that I do today?

“Of course I will,” I say to myself. That is; if I’m blessed with the opportunity to do so.

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