In Memory-keeping, Portraiture

I keep a little list of post ideas in one of my (many) notebooks. Thoughts and ideas and plans scribbled when the pen is pulled to paper. This post has been floating around in my head for a while now but I doubt it will come out anything like I had initially planned.

My grandfather has been in hospital for five weeks. Initially it seemed like a short stay for a seemingly simple and routine procedure. But each day following surgery took a new turn. Up down up down. All the while that heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach. That this would be the beginning of the last chapter. And this last chapter may still be lengthy – there may be time – but it’s all changed now. And it’s so hard to watch.

When you’re a child, even a teenager, you think old is forever away. And then you grow up and have your own kids and realise you just bought a one way ticket in the express lane. Everything goes faster, moves faster, changes faster. The children of family friends are suddenly adults when they should still be five.. shouldn’t they? I used to babysit them, just yesterday..

One of the hardest things about growing up is watching your grandparents grow older. Slower and more frail. Equal parts anger and awe at what age does to the human body – how quickly health can be snatched away when you can’t seem to maintain it. How hard it is to come back once you’ve fallen too far.

I know it’s all part of life. That great big circle that joins us all together. But knowledge doesn’t make it any easier. Watching a strong and able man disappear before your eyes, knowing he will never return to who he once was? Heartbreaking and overwhelming. The deepest sadness and feeling of helplessness. But there is always the gratitude. Always. Pushing ninety years on this earth, with a full life behind him. A big brood of healthy children, blessing him with grandchildren and great grandchildren. Family, love, connection.

Earlier this year I suggested to my Mum that we make a time to capture some portraits of her parents. I kept pushing the idea until we set a date. We both knew the weight that the suggestion carried. My Nanna knew too – quite unimpressed with the request but she obliged, and it’s only now, just a few short months later when everything has changed, that I am so grateful she did.

Our stories are our legacy, left behind one day for our loved ones. A large chunk of our lives will be spent enjoying those stories and memories, plastered on our walls and fridges. Holidays, birthdays, babies, weddings.. flipping through old albums created by our parents when the only way to see your photographs was to PRINT THEM – gasp! And then there will be that small chunk toward the end when the stories are frozen to leave behind.

Take the pictures. Make the memories. Leave the legacy. Even when everyone complains.

So onward we move. Into the changes. Together.



  1. Tahnee, oh Tahnee. This is a beautiful post, a beautiful tribute to your grandfather (and grandmother), a beautiful nod to photography and memory-making. I’m so glad you pushed to make these photos. I love each of them for different reasons…but the b+w where your Nanna is looking right at camera and your grandfather has his eyes closed and is laughing…that one especially.

    Sending you and your family love as you make your way through this next chapter.
    And sitting here in gratitude for this lovely, tender sharing.

  2. Oh wow! So so special. I only ever met my maternal grandmother and she died when I was 12/13. You are truly blessed to have these dear ones with you still. What lovely photographs. I love the first one of your grandfather looking directly at you, from within that beautiful black background. I’m sure you and your family will cherish these photographs for a long time.

  3. Oh, Tahnee. These portraits are beautiful, but my heart ached as I read your words. How blessed you are to have your grandparents in your life ( I lost mine when I was very young), yet so challenging to see your grandfather decline. You have given your family an incredible gift with these portraits; one I hope will give all of you comfort in the next chapter.

    Love to you. — Deb

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