On March 7, 2019, my grandmother, Edith Engmark, would be 103 years old. Her beautiful soul left us on January 9, 1988. There is so much I would say to her today if I could. I spent all my summers and most weekends with her as a child. She was more of a mother to me than my own. Everything I have ever learned about being a compassionate human and womanhood I learned from her.
The year before she passed away, my grandmother gave me a portrait of herself for Christmas. I was a selfish 15 year old kid at the time and didn’t understand why my gift from her was photograph. Not long after receiving the portrait my grandmother became ill with Cystic Fibrosis in her lungs. I never knew how sick she was until she gave up her home to live with my aunt. Even then, all I really understood was I would not be able spend weekends with her like I had in the past. I did not take her passing well. I became lost in my family feuding with each other and feeling like I lost a parent. It took a long time for me find my own path without her.
Losing my grandmother turned me toward something wonderful though. I began to pick up my camera more and started taking photography classes. My first film camera (not broken) was a Pentax K1000 35mm film camera. I loved the entire film development process; using an enlarger in a dark room and watching my images come to life on Kodak paper in stinky chemicals.
You could say my grandmother pushed me in the direction becoming a family photographer, because I now recognize how important those portraits are. I have held on to her photo for 33 years. It is one of my most cherished items. Her photo allowed me to teach my children about her. My daughter feels a connection with a great-grandmother she has never met. There is no price I can place on that.