I met Peg Duffy on Oct, 10th 2011. I was setting up the One Million Faces at for an event with Shiva Rea. We were chatted about the project and I recited my poem, Once Upon a Yoga Mat.
When I scheduled my sons’ senior pictures to be taken by Peggy Dyer, I was excited. I had met her briefly at a workshop prior to scheduling with her. I felt the passion she had for her job and saw the talent she brought to the table. Done, photographer scheduled. During our session, we asked if we could get in a couple family photos, yes all 6 of us. Peggy was up for whatever we needed and encouraged us to be our “normal” to get “giggly”. NOT the traditional, “Pose, tilt your head, lift your chin, HOLD, SMILES” and click. No, Peggy brought us out. Our true selves, our goofy, shy and smart selves. She brought out things in us we had forgotten were there. As many of you know, teenagers help us parents forget to smile. We forget to laugh with each other. (Maybe ‘forget’ isn’t the proper word here, we had lost our laughter.)
Jake, our senior, was no exception. In fact, he had mastered bringing out our demons. I never knew I could be so frustrated, so heart-broken, so sad, SO WORRIED until Jake showed me I could. Without detailing the 4 years of our journey through teenage boy-dom (or boy-DUMB), the hardest part was watching my son disappear. He was lost inside himself. Drugs had stolen my son. No matter how loud we became, how quiet, how much we hugged him, loved him or TOUGH loved him, no matter how many therapist appointments, he was not coming back. We had lost.
We decided to move to Colorado. A fresh start, a new perspective. Jake stayed in Michigan. I left expecting we would not see him alive again. Some may say I ran. Some (who have been there) say it was strong and needed. For the next 4 months, I woke up and before my feet hit the floor, I would see Jake happy and healthy. Then I let go (again).
Jake came to visit for Thanksgiving, I had scheduled Peggy to meet us right after he landed, and she bent over backwards to meet our schedule. When Jake came off the plane, I could see him. I mean, I could see my son who had disappeared for 4 years. He was bright and beautiful and alive.
We drove home from the airport and Peggy was there to meet us. She instantly took Jake outside to start his photo session and what I can say is: she is more than a woman holding a camera. She, from behind and through the lens, sees you. AND…. AND has the unbelievable ability to bring you out so that you too can see the truth of who you are. Within seconds, she had Jake laughing. LAUGHING! I watched, laughing and crying from the house. Who was this woman? I was convinced she MUST have magical powers, some sort of secret superhero, with the power to conjure laughter in the most unlikely people. Yes, that must be it.
We spent a 30-minute turbo shoot with Peggy. Thirty minutes. 1800 seconds, for the photo shoot. She took a ton of photos, all of which we LOVE. She had us laughing, jumping, playing. We were having fun, together. “Who cares about the photos, we’re having a blast!!!” The photos were all of that, they turned out fun, full of laughter, so playful and real.
But there was one. One that I look at every day, one that I show at least one person a day (I carry a copy in my wallet). It is my ‘Hope’ photo. When I saw it, I was blown away with the power of a photograph. She had captured my beautiful son. His smile was not seen for years, and there it was. He’s looking bright, alive and into his future, with his arm on my shoulder. I’m looking at my son. I’m proud and full of unconditional love for him, standing strong by his side. Wow, really? I had forgotten these people existed.
Peggy caught it, she knew, and she captured it so we would have a reminder to hold and look at. Every day, through this photo, I’m reminded of the power of love. The power of forgiveness. The power of family. To have more faith than worry. A photo, worth a thousand words, brings me to my knees almost every time I look at it. And I hear just 2 words: Thank you. Without this reminder, this photo, I would have stayed in fear and worry, doubting his future. Through this photo that Peggy Dyer brought to us, I was free and so was Jake. (it’s his FB profile pic).
I’ve repeated this story many times to Peggy. I’m not sure I could ever in words, tears or facial expressions, make her feel what she gave our family that day. So, Peggy Dyer, I will give you the words I hear each and every time I look at this photo: THANK you, thank YOU, thank you. Your gift of bringing us out into our truth was a healing for our family.