The Night it All Started
I feel like I should start from the beginning. The real beginning. Or perhaps I should say the whole beginning. We've told the story of Paul and I sitting at a table on a restaurant patio in downtown Atlanta. It was late evening. Market lights glimmered above us. We had just finished teaching at a two-day photography workshop so we were exhausted, but also energized by the stories of success and struggle we heard from fellow photographers.
Those of you who know Paul well, you know that he's a man of few words. Normally, I am the talker, but this night was different. Paul led the conversation from the moment we sat down. He was talking about the state of the photography industry, reasons why he believed photographers were struggling, what he wanted to change about his own photography... He wanted photographers, including himself, to figure out what they could give the world. He wanted to figure out what made him different, something that he could give that the world actually needed. Paul wanted his work to have purpose. After he spoke those words, we sat in silence, for a while actually. Then, moments later, Paul and I looked at each other right in the eyes. At the same time we both spoke, "It's the Blessing".
Not much was said after that. There was a lot of silence. I think we both knew that something important had just happened, but of course we didn't really know what. That night was the beginning of Paul's personal project. But something else happened that night that I haven't shared with anyone yet. My cell phone rang at 11:30pm. Paul and I were still sitting under the market lights. It was my dad. I knew something was wrong when I saw his name on my phone. I whispered, "Hey Dad, is everything ok?"
He said, "Kristin, are you with Paul?"
I said, "Yes Dad. He's right here."
"Kristin, are you sitting down?"
"Yes, I'm sitting down Dad... Dad, what's wrong?"
"Kristin... Jill is dead."
Time stopped. The market lights disappeared.
Jill was my first cousin. She was an incredible woman who lived her life for others. One day, I want to tell you more about Jill and my family, as both have shaped the woman I am. But I'm honestly just not ready. What I can tell you now is that somehow Jill is a part of all of this... we just don't yet know how.
After I hung up the phone with my dad that night, Paul and I didn't talk about the Blessing for almost a year. We associated it with Jill's passing and it was too painful. But the time eventually came when we had to admit that we had been given a project. Now, we finally had the strength and vision to complete it.