This past weekend, I had one of the most challenging shoots I've ever had. What made it difficult wasn't the adverse lighting conditions or the location, but rather, what I was there to witness- something no parent should ever have to experience. On Saturday morning, my dear clients said farewell to their sweet boy, Anderson "Andy" Elam, in an emotional celebration of his brief but impactful life. In his three short years, Andy managed to inch his way into the hearts of every single person he met, myself included.
Born with neonatal Marfan syndrome, Andy faced grave medical challenges right from the beginning. These challenges might steal the joy from most, but for Andy, it came naturally and without pause. His busy little arms and legs, infectious laugh, and mischievous smile could warm up even the chilliest of New England nights. His delight came from making those around him laugh. And laugh, they did!
Andy's celebration of life was a beautiful gathering of family and friends, caretakers, medical staff, teachers, and the scores of other lives he touched. The morning was filled with music, touching eulogies, and plenty of laughter, as those who knew him best, recanted stories of Andy's silly, laugh-inducing antics. Photographs, treasured toys, and handwritten notes to Andy lined the tables outside of his celebration. What stood out to me the most that morning was the incredible outpouring of love and support for the Elam family.
I had the pleasure of meeting Andy when he was just a newborn. I have photographed him over the years as he and his parents met each challenge and diagnosis head-on. It was evident in those earliest days that this boy was a special one, a precious gift chosen carefully for this particular family. His parents have been the embodiment of strength and love throughout this journey- Andy's biggest fans. Observing this family through my lens has not only been a great gift to me as a photographer but also as a mother. I've learned to grasp the beauty in situations that don't quite fit my expectations, slowing down to savor the ordinary days, and drawing those I love the most closer to me.
Andy, you were a remarkable little boy, and your bravery and strength will not soon be forgotten. What a treasure it was to have known you.
"Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return."
-Mary Jean Irion
Anderson James Elam
9/11/16 - 10/22/19