November 26, 2012


I woke up at 4am on Thanksgiving morning and expected to hear the sound of her footsteps down the hall.

I could almost swear I could smell the turkey baking. And waves of country stuffing almost certainly filled the air.

There was an instinct inside of me to turn on Nick at Nite. To find some old I Love Lucy reruns. Or maybe the Mary Tyler Moore show. I fought the urge to grab two golden delicious apples and a paring knife, and watch her peel them into long curlie cues while we talked for hours. Because it was the early hours of Thanksgiving morning, and this is what we always did.

But it was somewhere in the darkness, somewhere in that threshold where wake eclipses sleep..that I realized that she wasn’t there. That her footsteps weren’t coming any closer. And my heart ached out her absence just a little bit more.

There are days that I miss my Grandma Goldie so much that it hurts. And then there are times that I’ll go days without realizing that she’s gone. Days when I reach for the phone to give her a call before I catch myself . What they don’t tell you about loss is that it hits you in waves. Over and over again. Because it is on those days when you almost forget, when the pain seems like it has finally started to fade, that it comes rushing back down on you and hits like the first time. Thanksgiving, the day that was always our day…is always one of those days.

I fell back into a fitful sleep, and when I woke the next morning I made Justin promise me that he’d hug his own Grammie extra tight this year. That he’d listen to as many stories as she would tell, and that he’d burn her smile into his memory. He promised to do me one better, and he packed the camera in the car alongside my Grandma Goldie’s famous stuffing.

These are just a few of our favorites of what he got of Miss Grammy and her cat, Nicholas. I post these because she’s adorable and we love her (even if her cat does look like he’s plotting to take over the world! :) But I also post these because I also want to encourage each and everyone of you out there… know all those people in your life that you’ve been meaning to take pictures of? That you’ve been promising yourself you would schedule a quick photo shoot with? Do it. The holidays are coming up, you’re probably going to see them. Make a plan for it now, and pack the camera along with the presents.

Because I have a feeling, those picture will become the most important gift of all.


  1. Tiffany Farley

    LOVE this!

  2. Abby Grace

    I got the chance to photograph my grandparents last year and to date, it’s my favorite set of images I’ve ever taken. I think this Christmas will be the perfect opportunity to photograph them again- thanks for the encouragement :)

  3. Alicia Candelora

    These photos are beautiful. And that cat? He needs to get one of those "keep calm and…." signs.

  4. katie yuen

    It’s not even noon and you have me crying. She is so beautiful!

  5. Liz and Ryan

    Ahhh! I have tears! SO GOOD!!! Such a good reminder of what is truly important!!!

  6. Tanya Odom

    Thanks Mary. Needed to hear that today!

  7. anouschka

    that’s a great reminder Mary. Packing the camera this Christmas :)

  8. Christy Tyler

    Oh my goodness – I love this so much. And I absolutely agree. I made a documentary of Thanksgiving at my grandma’s house when I was a video undergrad in college & I’ve never been so happy for something in my life. Her laughter, our huge family, so many people, jokes, amazing moments – I will have forever because I thought to make that documentary. Because of that I make sure to bring my camera along every holiday & document it all. Love these photos of J’s Grammie!

  9. Lani

    Beautiful Grandma! And her cat does look full of angst! LOL

  10. Courtney

    What a beautiful post (and Grammy)! After reading your description of Nicholas, I literally laughed out loud at the first picture of him! Word domination for sure!!!

  11. Alison D

    I lost my grandmother a few weeks ago at the age of 93. I have been photographing her and her great grandchildren for the past 13 years as we watched her slip further away with alzhiemer’s. As we prepare her memorial service this weekend, I am so very happy I have these gifts to share with family. Thanks for the reminder, and I am so glad you have these gorgeous photographs. (even if the cat looks like he may eat you for lunch!0

  12. sharon elizabeth

    loveee that last one <3

  13. Janet Brown

    Beautiful. Now days with camera phones there’s no excuse. My mother is nearly 90 and is stuck in a fog of Alzheimer’s but on those occasional good days I can’t help but take a picture of that familiar smile or crinkle in the eyes that I want to never forget.

  14. Ashley Barnett

    I think I’m just extra emotional this holiday because Im sitting here sniffling-but this is so beautiful and I LOVE the pictures- although, yes, that cat straight up is plotting world domination. I have only one "Pappy" left (grandfather not by marriage) and it makes me sad to think I lost them so young that I never got to photograph them but I definitely know that Pappy will get his debut this year. What a great reminder to use what we do for ourselves, not just others :)

  15. Katie Hanlon

    I did this exact thing on Saturday with my husband’s grandmother (who is 91 years young) and his extended family. They all balked at having their photo taken, but I’m certainly glad they did. And I do the exact thing every Thanksgiving morning…no matter where I am, I expect to wake up in one of my Nana’s twin beds, a cousin in the other. I’m always in shock when my first sight of the morning isn’t the pink, mustard, and chartreuse plaid wallpaper in the bedroom. We made corn casserole the night before and stayed up til midnight to put the turkey in on low. Sometimes in those late hours, we’d un-apologetically dip tasteless air-popped popcorn directly into a stick of margarine or devour an entire $100 box of Harry & David gold-wrapped pears my grandparents had received as a gift while watching Food Network on her tiny 8" kitchen TV only to get the giggles about it. Thanksgiving in West Virginia will always be Nana Betty’s Holiday.

  16. Kristin

    So much truth. I lost two grandparents this year and sometimes it just hits you. Especially at the holidays.

  17. Julia G.

    Love this shoot!! Grammie is Gorgeous! And Nicholas is just adorable! :) Hugs to you Mary at this difficult/wonderful time of year!

  18. maggieb

    Not everyone is so blessed as to know their grandparents…I knew all four of mine and so did my children…and now I am Gramby…passing it all on; I can only hope to do so as well as it was passed to me.

  19. maggieb

    especially love that last shot!!!

  20. elizabeth

    awwww made me cry….I miss my parents so much I lost my dad in 2006 and my mom in 2009 and you have no idea how hard it is to sit and talk to the marble in front of you and telling them everything….yep everyone thinks I am nuts but I don’t care. Enjoy every moment with family.

  21. Danielle Acken

    Mary, I am a mess!!I cried so hard my husband was seriously concerned, and then I started laughing so hard I almost peed my pants! Thank you…I mean it!

  22. Colleen Cecil

    Thank You. I miss mine so much too!

  23. Bethany Ann

    This hit home for me because this was my first Thanksgiving without my granddaddy. Last Thanksgiving I took a photo of him that I will cherish forever. This was such a sweet tribute. Hugs!!

  24. Girish

    Truly wonderful and warm pictures.
    That looks really grumpy :P

  25. Gwendolyn Tundermann

    Such a beautiful blog post. I think we all love Grandma Goldie. It makes me so sad to think how much my grandmother hated having her photo taken, and I miss her so much. I treasure the few photos I have of her. <3

  26. Sarah Goodwin

    oh I love these! It’s been a year since I lost my Nannie, and a year since my Mamalou underwent brain surgery, now she’s turning 94. I definitely hold her a little tighter everytime. And I make no apologizes for having the camera around at family get-togethers.

  27. Cathy

    Thank you for posting this. My stepmom’s dad passed away this Thanksgiving and his visitation is tomorrow. He and his wife’s 50th anniversary is coming up and I can’t imagine the hurt she must feel. Thank you for sharing because the words you speak are true-we capture far more than images. As photographers we capture memories and something that will last beyond a lifetime.

  28. Jeremy Jackson

    So true…earlier this year my Grandmother Jackson passed away and even though it’s been months and months it seems like it’s still slowly sinking in with every holiday that passes without her. Last Thanks giving, as we made our way down to the Jackson family farmhouse in Taledega Springs, AL, Amanda and I decided to pack our cameras because we wanted to document the time spent there, just in case it was the last Thanksgiving with everyone there…and I’m so glad that we did. We had the wonderful opportunity to take some pictures of my grandparents that we will cherish forever and we also were able to capture some of my grandmother’s stories on video. If we hadn’t taken our cameras on that trip I’m sure I would have regretted it, and I never want that to be the case. I really appreciate you sharing your love for your Grandma Goldie and being willing to share even the hard moments.

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