Archive for 'tapestry session'


meet cornelia + rockwood – aka neilie + rocky, corny + rockster and most importantly to me, my parents. are they not amazing in this photo?! it’s my absolute favorite and was taken shortly before they got married. the story of how they met it almost cliche…. he was a midshipman at the naval academy in annapolis and she was a student at goucher college in baltimore which at the time was an all female school. because they both went to single sex  institutions, their schools had mixers and tea dances almost every weekend. mom was 5’9″ and dad was 6’9″ and they literally caught each other’s eye across the proverbial crowded room. the rest was history – she was small town girl from the eastern shore and he was a kid who grew up on the beaches of southern california. they were married a block from where I sit right now and I was born 4 years later. we lived in baltimore for the first 3 years after I arrived and then my dad got a job offer in syracuse so we packed up and headed to the tundra that is upstate new york. we lived on an idyllic street complete with block parties, potlucks, bbqs and kickball. we lived in a cedar shingled house where all of the neighborhood kids would come to learn and play football with my dad who had played for navy. I don’t have a single bad memory of life on huntleigh ave. I met a girl 7 houses down at the age of four who is still one of my best friends, learned that a life lived in 5 feet of snow made for some pretty amazing snow forts and that going down the slope of our road on my bike with arms stretched out wide was the best feeling in the world. my parents routinely danced to the beatles and beach boys in the kitchen while making dinner and took turns tucking me in at night, weaving amazing bedtime stories off of the other’s tale from the previous night. on my 7th birthday, I was led to the “wayback” of our yard to see our old storage shed transformed with paints of pink, orange and light green into “raye’s place” where I had all of my outside toys, some of my books, a portable radio and an indoor hammock (LOVED that hammock). the sign that was on the front door of my childhood refuge hangs in my office today – because as an only child, my parents understood then as my husband understands now that I need, for lack of a better term, my alone time – my own “place”  today, instead of toys, I have work that I love – instead of the hammock (although maybe I should investigate that same concept) I have a papasan chair in the corner - instead of a portable radio, I have pandora and itunes – but I still have books – lots of them.    

why am I telling you all of this? it’s important for me to remember these times – when everything was perfect and easy. because these two amazing people are my motivation for the tapestry sessions. when I was 8 my parents split and my mom and I moved to an apartment across town. mom had worked in advertising my whole life and she loved it – she was driven and creative and passionate about what she did – eventually opening her own agency and I thought she was the coolest woman ever – I wanted to be just like her. her friends were all in creative fields so I grew up surrounded by writers and artists and models/actors and I was treated as though I was one of them. for someone who thrived in a creative setting, it was the ideal adolescence. In the meantime, dad re-married and moved to chicago – I wouldn’t see him again until I was 22 and in art school. In the years following our reunion we both worked hard to rebuild our relationship and he became my best friend, just like my mom.

I was living in boulder when I got the call from my step-mother that dad had gone to the hospital with what was thought to be food poisoning. “nothing bad,” she assured me – “I just want to let you know.” during his time in the hospital, it was discovered that he had stage 2 colon cancer. when he called me to tell me I couldn’t speak. cancer. the very word scared the hell out of me – and now my dad, this larger than life man had it. “I’m coming home!” I declared but he assured me that he was okay and that his doctors were very optimistic. “don’t be scared raisin (great nickname right?) I’ll see you at christmas.” and he was right – after he had minor surgery, he had successful treatment and was cancer free by christmas.

6 months later mom called. she was changing insurance companies and as a result, had to have a full physical. during her mammogram, they found a spot. again I stated that I was coming back east and mom didn’t protest. luckily mom’s breast cancer was found early and staged at 1. after her lumpectomy I returned to boulder and following radiation treatment, she was declared cancer free as well.

I moved back east from boulder for good in 2001 and shortly after I met roland. after being together for a little over a year we were engaged to be married on june 4th and I knew that the shore would be my home for a long time. in the early stages of wedding planning, mom would get tired easy but we both explained it away with an anemia diagnosis she had received a year earlier. during a routine blood draw a couple of weeks later, some additional tests were done – and tests after that – and a few more tests until finally the doctors informed us that mom had stage 4 lung cancer. now you need to know my mother to understand this, but the realities of this diagnosis were never discussed. changing or moving up our wedding date was never an option. I simply took her to her palliative treatment, read my book in the waiting room and acted as if everything was going to be okay because that was what she needed me to do. one night while we were finalizing the guest list for the wedding she looked at me and said “do you realize that this will be the first time I’ve seen your father in over 30 years?” of course I did and silently prayed that it would still happen. it was my dad who I cried to about mom’s cancer and in talking to them both, I knew that they were actually looking forward to seeing each other. on valentine’s day 2005 mom suffered a seizure related to the cancer that had spread to her brain and it was the beginning of the end. I was blessed to be in a position where because I was self employed, I was able to spend every moment with mom and when I felt the situation required it, I brought in private nurses when I had to shoot a job - I was so grateful for this flexibility. but as an only child of an only child my support system was thin for round the clock care and although roland was amazing, I needed help. in early march we moved mom to coastal hospice on the lake and I was suddenly able to be a daughter again instead of a full time caregiver. the amazing staff allowed me to go home to snow hill for an afternoon to see the dogs or meet a friend for coffee worry free because I knew they would be there for her. but not only that, they took care of me. because I lived at hospice for the weeks mom was there, the nurses knew what I liked in my coffee, what size towels I liked after a shower, that I loved diet pepsi with lime and without asking, these things were silently provided for me. they made the remaining time with my mother as perfect and peaceful as it could have been – mom passed on april 3 – 2 months and 1 day before our wedding.

almost 2 years later I got another call from patti, my step-mother saying dad was in the hospital. this time, the easy assurance wasn’t in her voice – I only heard fear. I called dad’s room and in a polar opposite approach to my mom he said “it doesn’t look good raisin” and went on to tell me about all of the tests:  mri’s, pet scans and biopsies of his liver. we talked and talked and he didn’t even seem scared but I was terrified and made a lame show of hiding it from the person who knew me the best. 2 days later we got the news dad knew was coming stage 4 liver/bile duct cancer. dad didn’t want treatment – his main goals were to get his business and affairs in order and with a energy coming from amazing self will he did. crossroads hospice came to the house to offer dad pain management and patti general help. blessedly, dad had little to no pain just exhaustion. roland and I drove to philly every week and were so grateful for the support of  my step-siblings and other family. just a few weeks later I got a call from dad’s best friend saying that very early that morning dad’s condition had suddenly taken a turn and he was taken to crossroads - and that I needed to get up there – quick. dad was still semi-conscious by the time I got there and I was able to say good-bye before he fell into a coma that would last 7 hours before he passed.

In both of their deaths, the main thing that made it bearable was the assistance of hospice. I don’t know how these angels on earth have the strength and grace to do what they do day in and out. I couldn’t do it, I know that. they obviously care for the patient, but what blows me away it that they care for the caregiver and especially with my mother, it was the greatest gift I have ever been given. since my father’s death I have wanted to do something beyond the annual contribution to both organizations who were so amazing to my parents. and so late last year the idea struck, and I’ve worked since then on pulling it all together. for every portrait session I do from here on out, 25% of all post-product profits will be donated to both coastal hospice and crossroads hospice. In addition – anyone who is currently going through cancer treatment or is a caregiver of someone who is, it would be a honor for me to do a session with you free of charge – these sessions will not appear on the blog or website unless you want them to. I learned that although it’s a scary time, it’s also a time filled with hope, courage and overflowing love. 

both my mother’s lung cancer and my father’s liver cancer were unrelated to their first go around with this hideous disease. most people are familiar with the color pink being associated with breast cancer but every cancer has a color: white for lung, emerald green for liver and dark blue for colon. so when trying to think of something to name these sessions, it suddenly occurred to me – the tapestry sessions


I hope in helping them in whatever way I can will enable them to help others as they did me – I am forever grateful