It was a special occasion. My oldest son was getting married, and I wanted one picture with all of my family, not just my immediate family but all of the “Westmoreland” crew, the Carter Clan, my parents, and sisters, cousins, spouses, significant others, and kids—everybody. But I knew trying to organize a formal shot would be an ordeal. So, I asked our photographer to just take a quick picture.
I could tell she didn’t want to do it that way. She offered to get a nice shot outside. She explained that the lighting wasn’t great, the angle wouldn’t work. She told me that the quality wouldn't be good. She was the professional, and she was, of course, right.
The photo was a little grainy. And we were all scrunched in—some heads popping out here and there, other faces cut in half. Poor Mike Duffer didn't really make the cut with only a sliver of himself showing up at all.
But I love this picture, especially now that Brandon is gone.
I love this picture because this is us.
This is us after I rode to the church with Sjon-Paul alone, thinking, “This may be the last time I get to ride with him by myself for a very long time.”
This is us after a stressful morning with texts and phone calls between me and Ian about how Ryan's suit, which I left all nicely pressed and ready to go, didn't fit properly.
This is us after Brandon notified me that Ryan’s zipper broke, Ian had to run to Sam’s Club to get a new pair of pants at the last minute, and that no, even though they were already late for pictures, they were still not on the way.
This is us after we finally had a minute to put our arms around each other and pray with the bride and groom.
This is us after an emotional ceremony that marked a change in seasons, after a mother/son dance that I didn't expect, and before a dance with Brandon that I will never forget.
This is us with silly faces, sweaty arm pits, make-up that had run, and hair that had fallen.
This is us—not just me and my husband and my sons and new daughter-in-law. It’s us, my closest family who are also my dearest friends.
This is us doing life together.
These are the people who have been with me all along, those who were with me on that beautiful, exciting, emotionally charged-day, and those who were beside me during the devastating year that came after.
We aren’t always the best dressed or the most well-behaved. We are definitely never quiet. But when we are gathered together, you can bet that there is always food at the table, a hug to be shared, and plenty of laughter to be enjoyed.
Brandon loved this family so much, and so do I.
We may not always make the most picture-perfect moments, but we sure do make good memories.
This is us.