Grandpa Norm | 100th Birthday

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Amy Gray Photography

Today is Grandpa Norman's 100th Birthday! On this auspicious day it feels like the right time to share this most special series of photos. This session with Grandpa, Michelle, Angela, Dylan and Jon is something Ivan and I will never forget. These are my favorite images I have ever taken. This is the session that is most meaningful to me. 

These images were taken over a year ago in April, after Michelle and Dylan's wedding. They are so precious to me and because of that I haven't felt ready to share them. I've kept them close, revisiting them often, not ready to share them with the world. When is the right time to share images from an evening that changed your life? I've been struggling for over a year to find the right words to go along with these images. I still don't have the words and probably never will. I'll just share the story of the day and hope the pictures tell the rest.

When you meet Grandpa Norm you're instantly taken in by his calm, kind presence. There's a radiance about him and a sphere that immediately envelopes you. After spending just a few minutes together we were able to see the very special connection Michelle and Angela had with him. They were playful, loving, nurturing and there was an understanding between the 3 of them, a deep bond that was evident. Their connection is strong and different from any I have every witnessed between grandparent and grandchild.

Angela and Michelle, who are twins, were married 8 months apart, Angela and Jon in the states and Michelle and Dylan in Australia. Being as close as they are with Grandpa Norm, it was heartbreaking that he wasn't able to make the journey to either one of the weddings, so they decided to bring a piece of their weddings to him! 

On a lovely, Fall evening, in a little neighborhood outside of Sydney, Michelle and Angela brought Grandpa Norm from his assisted care facility to the very special grounds around his church. As a boy he had tended the small garden there, with its young trees as tall as he was. Now, an old man, he sat in his wheelchair surrounded by an Eden he's cultivated with nearly a hundred years of love and care: a sprawling display of lush tropical greenery, a forest of big beautiful trees reaching to the sky, and "two beautiful granddaughters, each more lovely than the last." When they arrived, Michelle and Angela lovingly guided his wheelchair through the grass to a special spot. Once he was settled the twins hurried inside to get dressed. Surrounded by the lush garden, accompanied by the singing birds, Ivan and I sat with Grandpa for a few peaceful moments until we moved into place and Michelle, Dylan, Angela and Jon began walking as one towards Grandpa. They were a vision, walking down the hill in their wedding dresses and suits, all 4 of them intently focused on Grandpa, smiling ear to ear. 

When they reached Grandpa he broke into the biggest smile. He grabbed Angela's hand and began reciting his poem that had been read at her wedding-

"A Little Golden Ring"

A little Golden Ring

Binds hands, lips, hearts

And makes them sing

With love,

Through years and years,

Through joy and tears,

And still keeps tied the knot

Unto the land where Time is not.

 He then turned to Michelle and recited his poem that was read at her wedding-

"Spring Wedding"

This your Spring, love's early treasure.

Summer brings to fullest measure;

Autumn's fruits of happy marriage;

Winter's chill may not disparage;

Through Life's seasons you will find

Joy increasing in the mind.

Winter's trials are but showers,

Spring returns with all it's flowers;

Pray your love be from the Lord,

Eternal springs be your reward.

The moment was surreal, the connection, the love, the sense of presence. Being part of such a powerful, intimate moment felt other-worldly. So much so that at one point I looked up from my camera and wondered it we had been transported to heaven. In this moment it was brilliantly clear to me that this is the purpose of our lives: to care for, connect with and cherish one another, and that family is the wellspring of this, the place where it all begins and where, if we're lucky, it will end. 

Happy 100th birthday, Grandpa Norm. We hope today is filled with the magic we felt when we were with you. We love you!

Grandpa plays with his and his beloved Ruth's wedding bands. 

Grandpa plays with his and his beloved Ruth's wedding bands. 

Angela and Jon packed their wedding attire in their suitcases and flew with it to Sydney all the way from Pennsylvania to create this special surprise Grandpa Norm! 

Angela and Jon packed their wedding attire in their suitcases and flew with it to Sydney all the way from Pennsylvania to create this special surprise Grandpa Norm! 

Amy Gray Photography