It is rare that I find myself at a loss for words, but today? I’m at a loss. Except for one.

I admit I took a moment to look up the definition of the word taken because today, this is the only word that feels relevant and it feels absolutely negative. But I knew that wasn’t right. You can take your child’s hand or a compliment, and as I recalled from many of my own experiences, you can take a photo. All good things. I looked it up because all taken stirs up for me today is  a negative connotation. This weekend, in Kalamazoo, something very sacred was taken.

Human lives.

I’ve called Kalamazoo my second home for the better part of 18 years now. At 18, I was just a kid from the country stepping foot onto the campus of Western Michigan University. Almost four years later, I began my career at what was then known as Biggs|Gilmore (now VML) and now, nearly 15 years later, I have walked through countless experiences that make up the fabric of who we are as an agency.

Out of all of those experiences, though, nothing could have prepared me for what we were about to endure as a family as a result of the senseless decisions made by one man this weekend in Kalamazoo. He took things that were not his to take. And those decisions directly affected my VML family. Family very close to me.

I won’t say anymore about him because he won’t be taking anything else. What matters to me are my two co-workers, Laurie and Lynn, who are now grieving the loss of their husband, son, brother-in-law and nephew. I had the wonderful honor of taking some photos that now mean more to me than almost any I’ve ever taken because they capture the true essence of Rich and Tyler Smith, two men just absolutely full of it! I mean, these two were fun and funny and just absolutely precious.

Rich was just so ridiculously genuine and jolly you couldn’t help but feel settled in his presence. And he loved his wife. And his kids. That was so very clear. And Tyler? Man, that kid was adorable. Like A-DOR-ABLE. He started undressing in front of me at his cousin’s senior pics and I had to look away. No, I’m not a dirty, old lady. I was laughing too hard that he was that comfortable in front of me. We barely knew each other at that point! And when I took his senior photos, I saw just what a genuinely good heart he had.

I’m thankful that I had this time with Laurie and Lynn’s family because they remind me, that in all things, we can find some level of good. Here, what was taken will give us a forever glimpse into what family means and what love looks like. And that is something that can never be taken away.



24 thoughts on “taken

  1. What a BEAUTIFUL family and amazing photos that will be cherished FOREVER. Thank you for sharing these with all of us. I absolutely love the last one of Tyler walking on the beach. My mind went to the poem “Footprints in the Sand”. Bless This Family! ❤️❤️❤️

  2. The only thing I can say is life can be taken from us but no one can ever take our memories of our love ones they say time will heal the pain but no one can say I know what you are going threw because we are not all the same . May GOD HELP GUIDE YOU THREW THIS .

  3. God has truly blessed you with some of the kindest words for your friend and her family!! Your gift of these precious photos will be a treasured part of the forever memories that were so horrifically taken from them last Saturday night!! It’s so incredibly evident in these photos what truly special men these two were. May God keep ALL of you in His loving arms!! Our continued thoughts and prayers……

  4. Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts. I do not know this family, but my heart goes out to them and my prayers are with them. I cannot imagine such loss, much less in the way it happened. No one deserved this. What beautiful photos of a loving family. My prayer for them today is that through God’s love and grace that their hearts will begin to mend and that they will all one day be together again.

letters to the editor

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.