family
The Saddest Day, 2010

In the throws of it, one hardly knows what to do.  It is a hard feeling to name. It’s a lump in the throat, a shortness of breath. It’s hands that tremble knowing that they must work fast. “This is it,” I kept thinking, I kept speaking under my breath, as if saying it out loud made the moment more real. She was leaving, we knew that full well, and there was nothing we could do.

I come from a family of farmers.  When my father was little my grandparents raised pigs.  On the coldest day of the year the hogs were slaughtered and their bodies were dragged to the roof of the house to freeze. One year the hogs took sick and the entire herd had to be slaughtered on the same day. It was my father’s job, together with the other children in the family, to help kill the pigs. This day was known as The Saddest Day.

This series of medium format photographs, entitled The Saddest Day, was originally conceived as a reenactment of this family narrative. However, when I arrived home that Mother’s Day weekend, I found my grandmother upside down on the couch, her head where her feet should have been. She was hurting. We rushed her to the hospital.

These photographs document the moments following our return to the farm after our first visit to the emergency room, two weeks before my grandmother died. The Saddest Day explores my family’s collective experience of loss leading up to the death of the family matriarch: my grandmother. In this moment taking pictures seemed the only thing we could do to stop time. Putting on a costume, wearing a mask, even looking through the camera was a way to face each other, face this trauma and our vulnerability without having to look at each other straight on. The Saddest Day portrays the beginning of our coming to terms with a looming goodbye; my father, sister and cousin dressed as pigs leading my grandmother into death.