When I heard through the photographers grapevine that Melissa was looking for a photographer to document the Celebration of Life for her friend Terry Mathews who had passed earlier this month, I was intrigued and wanted to find out more. After a few rounds of emails I found out enough to know this was a story I wanted to tell.
Terry was an avid hiker and had a passion for climbing 14ers – mountains over 14,000 feet, of which Colorado has quite a collection. During his summits Terry, and avid photographer himself, had built and impressive portfolio of artwork. Terry was also active on 14ers.com and had many friends among climbers around the country that would not be able to attend the Celebration of Life for him – which is what lead his friend Melissa to look for a photographer.
When I first arrived at Garden of the Gods I’ll admit I was a little worried. Only a small handful of family was there. The weather was expected to take a turn for the worse and I had to wonder if most had opted to skip this gathering in order to stay warm and dry.
It seemed the local deer was the only guest, at least for a few minutes.
Then the stream of people began arriving, and they just kept coming. Before long the entire ring was filled. People signing the guestbook, stoping to view photos on a slideshow – both photos of Terry and of his scenic photography.
It struck me how many of these people didn’t know many there – some where family, some friends, co-workers, and fellow hikers and climbers. But they all had their bond with Terry in common and the stories started flowing in small groups, there where smiles and there where tears, often visiting someone within moments of each other, and when the celebration started in earnest people took turns sharing stories with the entire crowd.
It was well after sunset when it ended. I realized the light of the computer screen with Terry’s slideshow was the only light I had left to focus by. The last of the shots taken hand held at 1/5th of a second.
It occurs to me that in the end contrary to popular thought it is not those with the most toys that win, but rather the fond memories and love in the hearts of those we leave behind that truly reflect ones life. From what I saw this night I am without doubt that Terry’s life was well lived and he touched the lives of many people around him, we should all be so fortunate.