I was a fairly new and young mom with boys ages 1 and 3. Photography was beginning to play a significant role in my life and I had the margin to really pursue ways to challenge myself and grow in the craft. I signed up for a one day event with a handful of local photographers. Dejah Quinn organized the day – a day with several models for us to practice and build our porfolios. My hope was simply to learn something from all the talent surrounding me that day. I hoped to capture a few images I could be proud to share. What I didn’t expect was to leave that day forever changed in how I parent.
That day I met a brother and sister. They were both teenagers. Abby had a camera in her hand. Andrew a video camera. While I tried to snap pictures with my camera, I was so distracted by them. As teenagers they both were building successful businesses. They were far more mature and confident than most adults twice their age. They knew their gifts, their passions and they were boldly chasing their dreams. Their Christian faith and love for life were evident within minutes of meeting them. Not only were they incredibly talented siblings, it was obvious they were great friends. As a new mom I watched the way they treated each other and those in the group. With each other they were both respectful and loving, but they also had a lot of fun together. As a new mom, I wanted to learn all I could about how they were raised.
Abby & Andrew – Abby & her mom (recent pictures from Abby’s site)
At dinner I sat next to them; I wanted to pick their brains. I asked them a million questions about how they grew up. What made it possible for them to be where they were – as teenagers? What were their parents like? A million questions. They shared with me how they (along with their two other brothers) were homeschooled and how their parents took advantage of that to help them specialize their education. They talked about how their parents always did such an intentional job of encouraging their unique gifts. They talked about traveling as a family and about all the experiences they shared together. They talked about having parents that enabled them to pursue their dreams even if it meant doing things in a way is different from mainstream American culture.
When they talked about their teenage years and their parents – their words were filled with love and appreciation. It was obvious they were a very close family. I told Abby I wished I could sit down with her mom. Thinking about my two little boys back home, I so wanted to ask her mom a million questions.
I left that day, came home to Chris and told him all about Abby and Andrew. Seeing two teenagers so confident in who they were, how God created them and what they wanted to do – well it changed my life. And I don’t say that lightly. I wanted that for my kids. I was challenged by how their parents really knew them, saw their unique gifts and gave them the tools and opportunities to grow into who they were created to be.
Since that day, Chris and I have tried so hard to see the unique gifts in our kids. We are constantly looking for those things, helping our kids see those gifts and trying our best to find ways to encourage them to grow in those unique areas. The way we parent and the way our kids are growing was hugely impacted by that day in 2007 when I met Abby and Andrew Smith.
I lost touch with Abby several years ago.
Yesterday, I randomly came across her picture online. Under it was a short caption that after a battle with terminal cancer, she went Home to Jesus on Saturday morning.
She was 24.
She found out she had cancer in 2012.
I sat in shock. It seems so impossible.
Naturally, I thought of her mom, her dad and her brothers.
I cannot begin to wrap my mind around what her family is feeling and facing. My heart aches for their loss.
I am inspired and encouraged by the grace and strength they show as they walk this unimaginable road.
Her brothers have created several videos that capture her story over the last two years. On Abby’s facebook page, they have given permission to share photos and videos – wanting Abby’s story to be told. I want to share this most recent video here today.
You can read more about Abby on her facebook page.
Several months ago I read this quote by Henry David Thoreau, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with a song still in them.” I’ve thought of that quote so many times over the last six months. How utterly sad it is. I don’t want to die with a song still in me. I did not know Abby well. We only met one day, but I am forever grateful for that one day. I am grateful her parents helped her find her song and I am grateful she sang it loud.
I look at my five kids and wonder about what the future holds for them. I hope I can help them find their song. I hope I can help them sing it…and like Abby I hope they sing it loud.