Safe and Sound.

I should probably put a warning, or maybe a minor alert here, that this post contains heady material.

It may not be suitable for Monday mornings. Then again, maybe it’s just about right.

There’s a Counting Crows song with lyrics that creep in my mind a lot. It’s called “Have You Seen Me Lately” and the lyrics are:

“Like she said she loved to watch me sleep
Like she said,
“It’s the breathing
It’s the breathing in and out and in and…”

Every night, even every morning that I’m the first one awake (rare), I stand and watch them sleep. The telltale breathing up and down. The rhythm. On Saturday morning, I stood and watched my Nana sleep. It was the breathing, in and out and in and out.

Quite like I watch Des sleep and breathe. Des and my Nana. They’re growing in opposite directions and it’s much too fast for me.

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It was too much, too fast for me. It was so fast I felt sick and suffocated and I ran out of the room, saying that Des needed air. I needed air. She lay in her bed in her room, in her rehab facility, where she may learn to walk and eat again. And she may not. My money is on “may”, but for how long? She lay in her bed in her room, with wires and monitors – huddled under covers like a small child. What does it feel like to wake up and be close to 100-years-old? What does it feel like to wake up and be one-year-old? To be deteriorating so fast. Or to be expanding so fast. All we can do is watch them sleep, and pray for their breath.

Breaths are the sweet rhythms of life. Where they stop, no one knows.

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It was one of those times in which I thought I might throw up, or cry, but I didn’t start because I feared I’d never stop.

Scarlet stayed. She saw my retreating back and she knew a nurse had arrived to get my Nana dressed for visitors. She had a choice, or a “choose”, as she calls it. You know what she said? She said, “I’m staying with Nana Jane.” Then when my Nana was dressed and awake and waiting for me in a cool, windy courtyard, I came to my senses and brought Des back. There was a fountain in the courtyard. Scarlet and my mom made wishes in the water. There may have been coins involved. Scarlet’s wish?

“For Nana Jane to feel better again.”

Amen, my princess. Yes, she is a princess. In every sense of the word. Her heart, soul and inner beauty. The stuff that matters.

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And she dresses like one too, which is more fitting than she knows. Her “costumes” don’t always look like costumes.

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For days now, there’s been a song stuck in my head. Firmly. It plays on a continuous loop at certain points of the day, and the only lyrics I know of it are “safe and sound.” Not that I’m any good at learning lyrics, but I’m stuck on those three words. As the weekend approached, the song in my head sped up in tempo. I craved this weird song like I’ve never craved anything. It was almost like I breathed it in, and out, and in. I only ever feel sick and anxious when I don’t feel safe and sound. Quite simply.

The song is by Capital Cities and I’m writing to it, so maybe you can read to it:

Sometimes it’s ok not to feel safe and sound. When I am stretching outside my comfort zone so far that I can’t even believe I can still stand. On my tip-toes. In a rehab facility. Shooting what I consider my first wedding Saturday night. It was a second wedding, actually. A vow renewal ceremony. It had all of the makings of any great wedding – true love, a hot bride, a professional photographer, two cakes, a stunning church, music and good food. I was so nervous – so ambitious to get that photo-magic feeling I get when everything is working out. I was so anxious to capture a feeling and a story. 25 years of a love story.

Family. Laughter.

I know what I can do, and capturing life and love is something I can do.

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I am starting this part of a victory speech before I leave for the wedding. It is the only way to self-soothe; the only way to create a self-fulfilling prophecy that I have to make come true. ‘Cause writing this is hard and soul-reaching and I’d hate to show up on Monday morning without a blog post. So here I am, maybe transcribing this on a Sunday night at home, but my voice here is from Saturday afternoon in New Jersey. I am so nervous and so determined to make my photography dreams come true.

And now, it’s Sunday night.

So I thought of all of the voices of those who are stronger than me – my mother who went through the deaths of two dogs, a horse, her father and a close friend in the last 15 months. Still, she goes on and is building a life for her nearly 100-year-old mother that is even remotely familiar to old comforts. Even remotely familiar in this amazing and horrifying life. Then there’s my daughter who cries happy tears because she says she “loves so much”, and she stayed by the side of a visibly ailing, woman who was sleeping so old, she looked infantile. I ran out to catch a fading breath. My daughter stayed. I will NEVER forget that.

I also thought of all of the voices of my in-person and blogging friends who have shown me support for this photography job. I played all of your words in my head in the same loop as the “Safe and Sound” song. It kept me going.

And now, thank you. It happened. Finger met shutter button a few hundred times. Something, I hope, was captured.

And now I’m home and I’m processing. And if I shot film, I’d be processing that.

I’m home and Cassidy is home from his trip, and everyone is sleeping but I’m not. And we may never really be safe and sound in this ever-uncertain world, but I feel it right now. I will lose this feeling, and I will feel it again too.

Safe and sound.

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  1. Beautiful Tamara & so true. More safe and sound than not though for sure & ghat's much to be grateful for. I love the picture and thought on waking up growing fast vs getting older! You are blessed to have nana Jane for so long. I know wedding was superb!

  2. It's such a helpless feeling, isn't it? It's hard to be strong and sure and confident all the time. In fact, it's exhausting. Give yourself permission to have these moments. You're human. I'm sure that won't be the first time your daughter surprises you with her strength – she's learning from YOU! I hope you feel safe and sound all day…and the next day…

    1. Thank you so much, Seana. It makes me weepy too! So happy to still have these moments. That photo was from nearly a year ago. I hope to get another one soon.

  3. Tamara, I know this feeling well and we lost my grandmother when Emma was only 6 months old. I watched as she pretty much whittled away to nothing and I must say I too had my moments with this. I still miss her like crazy and wish it didn't have to be this way. You said it so perfectly here though and I wish for more time for your grandmother and hope she does indeed get better, because as much as we want them to live forever, I also know I didn't want my grandmother to be living and suffering either. Such a conundrum and thinking of you this Monday morning now.

  4. Oh, Tamara, you are making me cry this morning. I wish we could all live in a bubble where we are safe and sound all the time. But we wouldn't be living life, would we? I'm sure you captured more moments than you know at that wedding. And I think it's amazing how Scarlet is embracing her moments with your Nana. I wish my kids could have had that chance.

  5. Safe and sound. Not something that can be forever. Or for always. But I'm glad you can find that landing here and there, once in a while.

    I'm sure the wedding photographs are beautiful!

  6. This is just beautiful Tamara. I can only imagine how proud you felt of Scarlet for staying with her Nana Jane. Isn't it amazing how strong our children are? At the end of the day, they are the ones that keep us safe and sound.

    1. Ack, I love that so much I had to gasp when I read it. They do, in so many ways! Small story but we spent four days with one of their grandmothers last month in Cape Cod and she told me how much she loved doing "kid stuff" with us. Usually on the Cape, she wouldn't find herself at libraries and playgrounds, but there's a certain sense of safety to be in those cushy places.

      And it goes deeper than that, of course.

  7. I loved reading this post today. It brought me back to memories of my grandmother who I was very close to. I even named my daughter after her. And then when I scrolled down and saw the Safe and Sound song, I laughed to myself because I have been listening to this song all weekend. Such a beautiful post to start the week off!

    1. Aw! I named my daughter “Scarlet Bella” because my paternal grandmother was Bella. She passed away in 2001, and it’s been hard to recover from that, even now.

  8. I'm glad and privileged actually that I had a heads up on this heady Monday morning post – or else I'd be a little more teary eyed than I am right now. You, my friend, capture love and life like no other. You do it for us three times a week on your blog and for so many others off the blog. I can't wait to meet Scarlet in December and tell her in person that she's amazing.

    1. I felt I had to put that alert in there! A local friend of mine told me she was grateful for it too! I cannot wait until December. For that reason only since winter kinda scares me. Scarlet and Scarlett together! And us too.

    1. I third it! I read it yesterday morning and it resonated in my head all day. I am SO hard on myself. I have permission to have these moments. So powerful. Thank you, Allie. And Allison!

  9. This is amazing. I'm in tears but that is exactly what I need this morning. You are amazing, your daughter is amazing – the love you have in your writing and photography transcends all and I'm blessed to be able to be a part of it. Much love!

    1. Whoa, that was wonderful to hear! Thank you, Krystal. I'm astonished at how present we are for each other's life experiences. I'm blessed to know you too!

  10. Tamara,

    I found myself reading and breathing in and out with so much awareness. And a little anxiety and grief over life winding down and just beginning. The beauty of this post is astounding. Truly wonderful, my friend. Truly.

    Wishing you Safe and Sound today. Congratulations on the wedding job on Saturday. I'm sure the photos are breath-taking and gorgeous.

    1. One day I will photograph Tucker, and I will be just as nutty about it, because IT MUST BE PERFECT. 'Cause I feel like you guys are my close friends and neighbors. Why hasn't that happened yet?

  11. Sometimes life is just. so. intense. isn't it? All the feelings, everything changing, learning. The cycle of life. I lost my grandma a few years ago, I want to write about it but I haven't been able to yet. She was home at my mom's house and I stayed with her. My mom and I had a Scarlet and Tamara moment, only I was a grown up. And it was okay. I was happy to be to the one that stayed so my mom could catch her breath.

    You are beautiful too. Your heart, soul and inner beauty. The stuff that matters.

    1. Reading this took my breath away. We’re all human – we don’t always get to be perfectly strong when people we love suffer. Not only that, we shouldn’t be. You seem like a great “catcher.” I’m honored for you to read my post. I know one day you will write about your grandmother..and it will be right.

  12. I wish I could reach through the screen and just hug you. Seeing someone you love in that state is so raw and overwhelming. I'll be thinking about you this week, sending lots of love and positive thoughts to your Nana. Loved those beautiful photos your shared, especially the one of Scarlet in her princess dress.

  13. Oh my gah, Tamara!!! I’m sitting here boohoo’ing in my cream of wheat… Lawd, that was written beautifully!!! I love S’s heart, you say it over & over again, and it is SO true!! XOXO.

  14. Great post! I totally know those feelings! The little ones surprise us with their strength, don't they? My daughter was 4 when she and I watched my elderly mother loose control of her car in a parking lot, hit the gas I stead of the break and get thrown for the car. Blood, ambulance, mayhem. At the ER while we waited for my husband to come pick up my daughter, her little 4 year old self kept patting me and saying, "don't worry, Mommy, Nana is going to be Ok." After a long hospital stay and a couple of months of recovery, Mom started feeling like her old self only to pass away from an unrelated heart attack. You just never know. I also often feel like I can't start crying because I may never stop.

    Ona happier note, I'm so glad you wedding went well. I hope you'll post some of your great photos!

    1. What an intense story. And it sounds like she was so comforting in such a scary time. I’m sorry about your loss. You’re right – we just never know.

  15. All of this made me miss my grandmother so much! She was a Jane. My Frances is named after her. I wish she could have met some of her great-grandchildren. I think they turned out pretty awesome!

  16. I'm sure that you and I must have been awake at the same time last night. Everyone was sleeping and I was awake with worries, and I needed to remind myself that everyone was safe in their own beds, and that I'm blessed. Sometimes I have a hard time letting go of my fears!

  17. I haven't thought of the words "safe" and "sound" in a long time. Adulthood may have placed those words in the far back of my mind. I feel safe but not sound. I think that's OK as long as you don't allow it to steal your peace and joy. Beautiful post Tamara.

  18. so beautiful. I know you rocked that wedding, like there isn't a doubt in my mind. My grandmother went from being completely independent to bed ridden in a blink of an eye and at first it was so hard to adjust. But when I see how her face lights up when she sees me (and even more when she sees the boys) I realize its just another part of life to enjoy.

    1. I so love this comment. We do have the power to still bring joy. Joy doesn't go away, at least not with everyone. She's still fighting so much to enjoy what she has left.

  19. First, I love that song. I hear it in my head every single time I feel less than safe and sound. Second, watching your Nana and having to catch your breath…I get that. I had that feeling twice before. It was once with my Nana and again with my Grams. Third, the way you capture these moments is magical. I am so jealous of the bride and groom that will be able to look back at the moments you captured for them.

    1. I never wanted to have that feeling, but it's nice to see that it's happened with others. I felt so weak, but I don't think being human is weak, after all..

  20. I can't imagine a situation in which you wouldn't capture what needed to be captured. The photographs of your nana and children were just beyond.

    1. Wow, thank you. It happens less these days because I have gained confidence and better control of my camera/lens settings. However, there are definitely “off” days in which I’m not feeling it. Gratefully, I have come to a point where people often can’t tell when I mess up because I compensate! Mostly..

  21. Isn't it awesome when are children show strength when we don't? I think that shows how well you are parenting, Tamara, and how more and more fabulous Scarlet will become. May you have many more days of safe and sound. And I'm sure the wedding photos will be gorgeous. How could they not when you took them?

    1. Thank you so much. I figured that with four generations of us in one room, three out of four were all grace and strength. I was the weakest link..that time. I'm learning to give myself a break for it. And I'm really happy that those three don't appear to have my anxiety. I must have gotten that from my father's side.

  22. Hooray for Scarlett choosing to stay. And, I totally get your feelings – my grandma (Mema) went from being a very vital loving woman to a woman who almost always refused to get out of bed after having a stroke – it was hard to watch but I made numerous 20 hour round trip driving trips to spend time with her during her last 2 years and I'm so very happy that I was able to.

    I love that picture of your Nana's hand and Des' little one – such a perfect picture of the cycles of life.

    And I know that you were phenomenal Saturday night at the wedding!!

    1. Happy you had those last times with Mema. My mom lived far away from her parents for decades, until last year when her father passed and her mother moved up north. In some ways, this twilight of their time together is bittersweet. They have had more time together than since my mom was a child, and yet watching her deteriorate is so tough.

  23. Loved this post … I'm sure the pictures turned out phenomenal. And in wake of the tragedy in DC today I can only hope that everyone of my friends find themselves safe and sound today 🙂



    (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo

  24. Tamara, thanks for sharing this. I think as women we are hard-wired that way, wanting to feel safe…that’s why I love home so much, because it’s where everyone is safe and sound! Rockin’ out to the video now… 😉

  25. What a strong little girl you are raising…and what a big heart. It is hard to watch aging and know that their time on earth with us fleeting. And also hard to watch our little babies grow. I think if we could all freeze time at different times in our lives we definitely would. Beautiful post my friend!

    1. Totally, but I couldn't even choose where to freeze time! In each case, I'd be missing someone. My mom said that's kinda what the cycle of life is all about. We'd do anything to get our deceased loves ones back, but time has passed and we have been introduced to the next generation…and now it's their time. Such deep stuff. Whew. I now need a drink.

  26. You will always watch your family sleep. I still watch my 22 and 18 year old boys. I watch my 22 year old because he doesn't live at home full time and I just like to see him in his bed, in our house. I watch my 18 year old because it's his last year of high school and I don't know what next year will bring for the two of us. Watching them sleep is the best time.

    It is so wonderful that your grandma gets to spend time with you and her great grandkids. Yes, almost 100 is a lot of breaths but in the picture I can see that she still has life. Not everyone gets this opportunity. And even if you ran, at least you were there. I had a hard time visiting my grandma in the nursing home. It's not how I wanted to remember her. I wanted to remember her like when I was a little kid.

    You are blessed to watch all the sleeping and all the breaths.

    1. So many breaths in 100 years. I never even put those words together the way you did. I never want to go back, but I know I will. Whatever it takes for moments of breaths.

  27. Once again another beautiful post. I knew that you would do great at the wedding there wasn't a doubt in my mind. I knew that you would do a great job! Love the photos of your nana and the kids. Scarlet is truly a princess in every word and Des my prince! You have a beautiful family, one that is full of love. Here's to a more years with nana.

  28. My heart goes out to you and your family. It's not easy watching your loved ones grow old before you. I'd tell you that the most important thing is to celebrate the life they got to have, but that doesn't really help does it? What I will say is congratulations on the job, and on doing such a fine job raising your little girl that she stayed strong…not just for herself or for your nana…but it seems a little bit for you too.

  29. Tamara, I'm sorry…I'm thinking of you! It is so difficult to watch someone you love grow old! Just remember to document her stories so her life will live on for your children…our memories keep people alive for us. Scarlet is a strong little girl!

  30. Well these photos were beautiful and the one with Nana and your daughter priceless. I imagine you did very well capturing some special moments. my favorite line in this post is quotable: dang I’m on my phone so I can’t scroll up – but what you said about the sweet breaths of life where they stop no one know. This was breathtaking.

  31. So your post totally and completely left me breathless. I watch my kids sleep too. I can't help it and I think that I will always watch them sleep. And I find that I do with my mom sometimes. It's hard watching those you love grow older and our young ones growing older. Yet they do seem like they are growing apart and together at the same time. Sometimes all I wish for is safe and sound. You do capture the essence of love and life and I have no doubt you did rock the wedding.

    1. I wonder if I'll always watch them sleep! Probably as long as they live at home. I used to feel safe and sound more often. Now I feel more cautious with my living. Happy, but cautious.

  32. Yes, safe and sound. I wish I could wrap everyone I love and care about in a big bubble and keep them safe and sound forever. Keeping you in my thoughts right now, my friend.

  33. Oh Tamara, such a beautiful post. I think Scarlet’s strength runs so deep – it’s the circle of life really in full force -her new little life clinging to your Nana – there’s a connection there, a passing of a torch and a legacy. Zach was only 23 months when my Dad died. I was with my Dad in those last weeks, days and hours. I knew it was time, and told Zach to kiss his Grandpa as he was getting ready to leave (I would stay) – just like he had many nights when we left the palliative care home. But that last time, Zach got very emotional. I will never forget his little face – filled with sadness and emotion as he leaned down and kissed my father, who passed away an hour later. I see so much of my father in Zach. In that moment, there was a connection, a transfer of energy, an understanding that “we will meet again.” It’s such a beautiful memory for me, of such a painful time. Children are so in tune with these things. She’s your rock now.

    1. My grandfather passed away right after Des was born. I'm happy he knew of his birth, but they never met. I think that time of life will always be so bittersweet for my mom. Saying goodbye, and saying hello.

  34. Safe and sound. When I think ok these words I think of Scarlet’s perspective the most. Her childlike but hopeful outlook is what I long to have after reading this. Your mom and Nana will be in my prayers. Thank your for such a beautifully written post. Loved reading this 🙂

  35. So happy to see you as the first commenter! And thank you – so much to think about and write about. It made me feel better knowing you were all reading.

  36. So true, Janine. My mom was saying that her mom is nearly 100 and sometimes, letting go is the best option. She bounces back a lot, but it's hard to see her lose things she loves one by one. I wish we could enjoy life fully until the very peaceful end. (in our sleep, of course)

  37. So much. I think that's one of the top three things about parenthood that I wasn't prepared for, no matter how many times I heard it. They will amaze us more by what's in their hearts, than by how early or late they walk and talk and learn to read.

  38. I also love that weird song. I have a memory of sitting in the back seat of our car, squeezed between two car seats, dancing to it with my littles. A rare moment but one of the good memories. Otherwise, this post leaves me speechless and lost in thought…. in a good way…

  39. As long as you always remember that you will get to safe and sound, you'll be alright. We all get in that zone and it's a normal…yet crappy place to be in but have hope and faith not only in the situation but in you.

    You are a strong amazing woman who writes so eloquently and your photos are just gorgeous. I can feel whatever you tried to capture in that moment.


  40. That safe and sound feeling doesn’t always last, but it does come back. I love that. And it is so comforting when it does. Your photos photos are beautiful and I have no doubt that the wedding shots are going to be as well.

  41. That spirit that makes Scarlet brave and you loving? They come from Nana, don’t they? I remember when my dad was sick, wishing I could bring Madison, then just 3, to lay on his chest and rest with him, so she could be close to him, but also so he could know how it felt to hold his only grandchild to that point.

    That Scarlet and Nana have shared love? That’s a gift, and one that won’t ever go away.

    As for the photography: Hitting that button is just like hitting free-throws, you know. Aim, click, do what you do.

    1. They come from Nana, and her mother – Nana Grace – and more. We’re trying to keep something up here. Something about love and longevity. I’m so proud to be a part of this long line, even if I feel like the weakest link in it sometimes. I know it’s not really true – we all hold each other up.
      Free-throws. I like that. I like that a lot.

  42. Thank you. I love when it comes back, and when it goes away I always think that the next time it comes, it will be more tentative. It never is, though. I do settle into comfortable rhythm well.

  43. I can say that it is very hard to watch someone you love be so helpless. You want to help them and take the pain away, but you can't. Sometimes you are mad and sometimes you are sad…I love the picture of Des and your Nana's hand. It's definitely one picture to treasure.

  44. {Melinda} In this scary world, it is hard to feel truly safe. That’s what keeps me looking up, knowing that God has it under control — even if I don’t understand it all.

    The photos of Des and Nana are just precious. So beautiful. You are so talented at capturing these kind of moments, Tamara. I always have an emotional response when I see your photos.

  45. I love that comfort in thinking about something keeping it under control, you know?

    Thank you so much. That emotional response thing? Even if I do that with just one person, I've done my job. So thank you for that comfort.

  46. Oh Tamara… I can’t believe I am just seeing this now! (Damn the email subscription failure!! It happens on random blogs I try to follow…)

    Your words- your breathtaking photos… your story that can resonate a million times over for every single soul that grows- old. No one is ever safe and sound. No one. that’s why capturing the beauty in each moment matters. And you do just that.
    But taking a breath outside to exhale pain, is always a way to cope. And your precious princess didn’t need to because her innocence is still lingering in that lovely illusion that she is safe and sound. Oh how good that is. 🙂

  47. Oh no! I'm sorry the subscription isn't working. Glad you still found your way here, though.

    This was a tough one to write, and now that it's a week later I haven't looked at it since. It's nice that your comment brought me back to take a deep breath and see where I'm at, eight days later.

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