collection upon collection of things.
things that you needed, things that you wanted, things that mattered and things not so much. 
well, really... it all mattered. at least to you it did. and that's what matters to us now.

a week ago the world lost a truly unique individual. john, my mom's partner of twenty years, peacefully left to the sounds of relaxing, tropical hawaiian music and a plethora of memories and experiences. 

he was a breathing contradiction (which, looking back, was part of his charm) that led to chaotic relationships + uncertainty. i can recall memories of sunday dinners at my mom's - he would criticize my cousin for complaining about whatever delicious treat my mom had (or had not) made, yet the very following week would do the same. when i was sixteen he aggressively scolded me for receiving delias' catalogs in the mail - what a waste of trees! - and the very next week would get his subscription to national geographic or some car magazine in the mail slot. he both loved and hated spending money, ice-cream, travel, renovations. 

but one thing is for sure, he loved his family. 

i haven't had much of a relationship with my stepdad's family until recently. the guilty side of me always justified this by telling myself "well they live on the west coast and we can't afford to go out there and they don't come here so it is what it is." the truest and most meaningful blessing in all of this sadness is that i have been able to get to know, and fall in love, with the people that held the other half of john's heart. 

there's a certain invasiveness when one is going through the belongings of a person who is no longer here. during this process i've thought to myself, these old photographs and postcards, sweaters and music - maybe he didn't want us to see, read or feel them or else he would have proudly displayed them. he isn't here to reminisce... to explain himself, defend himself - why does one need a warped piece of wood meant for nothing other than it has a beautiful grain? ha. maybe the joke is on us - what better reason to buy than for the beauty of something? 

so as i photographed his family as they went through his things, i kept that sentiment in mind. photograph everything and everyone with no other purpose than capturing the beauty of the moment and the people in it.  even though the process was (and still is) arduous, exhausting and draining, there was laughter and joy and silliness felt in the air, so tangible you could reach and grab it.

i miss you, john. i feel my heart being crushed and crushed again when i think of how you smiled with your entire body...  all of the amazing places you visited but i never bothered to ask about... that i never fully appreciated you until now, even though i felt like i had you all figured out.

i wish you were here to see how close we have all become in such a short amount of time... how we've rallied together to hold each other up, lend a reassuring hand, reminisce about old times... 

i can't help but think you knowingly orchestrated the whole thing, bringing your west coast and east coast families together - like you knew how hard we would end up loving one another if only given the opportunity - so you gave it to us. the last, and best, gift you could ever leave behind... a new family to rely on, to miss, to celebrate, to cherish.

i am so grateful. xoxo. 

jennie bregande