“We cherish every single moment together and hug each other a little tighter. We continue to keep big smiles on our faces and two thumbs up…because that’s what Don would do!!” ~Jessica Gormon~
As I drove to this session I was, admittedly, a little nervous. My sister was with me this weekend helping me as a second shooter and I was grateful to have her for support. Miss Jess, as I know her from Jordan’s school, is one of the most sweet, warm, and friendly people I have ever met! My concerns were not at all with her, I was concerned about how emotional this session had the potential to be. Jamie and I, having lost our father when we were young, have grown-up knowing him and reliving his memory by going through my mother’s photo albums. Each album brings him to life in a new way and I have always cherished these photos for the memories they provide and the stories they generate. Our photos of him are what led me on this journey to becoming a photographer. And now, the reason for my passion, the opportunity to create these images for another family to cherish as they fight the greatest battle of their lives, was before me and I was worried I would struggle to keep the tears and emotion at bay. And then we walked in the door.
If you know this family you are probably smiling. My time with them was emotional, but not at all in the way I anticipated. We were greeted with smiles, warm hugs and offers of wine. Nesta, their playful, German Shepherd, pup was happily barking as Jess ushered her outside. When we met Don, he hugged us. When we asked how he was feeling, he danced a little dance and smiling ear to ear gave us his famous “thumbs up” sign. Throughout our time together, we laughed, listen to stories, hugged, and felt the whole time as if we were catching up with long-lost friends. By the time we left I think my sister and I had casually (or maybe not so casually) invited ourselves over for Thanksgiving! We arrived a little unsure, we left feeling like family. I know we are not the only people who have walked away from this family feeling as if we’ve been “adopted-in”. There are so many stories that I see on social media and their website about the impact Don and his family have had on countless others. An impact, I have no doubt, will live for many years to come!
Below is Jess’s story of her father’s battle with ALS and a glimpse into the joy and determination that keeps her family fighting.
“In November, 2016 , my dad, Don, was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). ALS is a fatal, progressive, motor neuron disease that eventually leads to the loss of voluntary muscle action. People with ALS eventually lose the ability to speak, eat, move and breathe. The average life expectancy is 2-5 years after diagnosis. As my dad grows physically weaker- he becomes even stronger in my eyes due to the way he’s handled everything. Don has always worked hard, loved hard and now he is fighting hard. He has kept a positive spirit and has been a true inspiration throughout his journey with ALS. ALS has taken many things from my dad, but it has also given us the chance to reconnect with old friends and to hear amazing stories about him and how truly kind and selfless he is (which of course we already knew!). As a family we have always been close, but ALS has given us an even greater reason to focus on what is really important. We cherish every single moment together and hug each other a little tighter. We continue to keep big smiles on our faces and two thumbs up…because that’s what Don would do!!”
To support this family in their battle please visit their GoFundMe page at the link below!
Jess, Peggy, Mike, Derek and Don, we cherished our time with you and feel honored to help capture these memories. I think the only thing left to say is: what should we bring for Thanksgiving dinner? 🙂
Krista Sexton & Jamie Bledsoe