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.
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.