Thursday, June 7, 2012


I have been thinking a lot lately about people who have had an impact on my life. There are way to many to name them all, but I think I will talk about a couple of them.

Kayla Paige Radack. I never met Kayla, but I think about her nearly every day. At age 16, Kayla tragically lost her life in a car accident right in front of the neighborhood where I live. There is a memorial erected where the accident took place, and I pass by it every single day. When I see the wooden cross, I think about the accident. I was not working on the day she died, but I happened by the accident shortly after it happened and grabbed my camera and took several photos before realizing how serious the injuries were. The accident didn’t have an immediate impact on me, but when I was assigned to photograph student reaction at her school, I was touched by her friends who mourned in the school parking lot around her assigned parking space. I remember candles and I remember hugs… many hugs and tears. I also think of Kayla’s brother Kyle as I photographed him on the side of the road mourning at the accident site. This was not an easy picture to take, as a matter of fact it was quite hard to photograph him as he pulled his shirt up to his face wiping his tears. Even harder was the task to have to approach him to find out who he was.

Now, this post isn’t about how hard it is to photograph situations that no one wants to ever have to witness in their lifetime. The point is that Kayla has had an impact on my life even though I never met her. But, I’m not the only person she has had an impact on.  Many, many people are impacted each year by Kayla. Most of them never met Kayla. Her family and friends started something called Kayla’s Closet, a place where girls in need can come and pick out a prom dress for FREE. What a cool idea and a great way to pass along Kayla's giving spirit. I know there are many many young women who have been impacted by Kayla through this awesome endeavor. There is also an endowed scholarship in Kayla’s name. And I was recently reminded yet again about the special qualities Kayla possessed. I listened to her name announced and the award given in her honor during the annual awards banquet for the Riverside Lacrosse team. Her commitment to the lacrosse team, where she volunteered as the lead statistician, is honored every year with an award given to a player with similar qualities.

Phillip Garrett. Phillip was several years younger then me when he decided to take his own life. It was the year after I graduated high school and I was working at High Point Photo Supply. I remember getting the call from my mom while I was at work. She told me the news. I was numb. To this day I have never been able to understand why he took his life. At the time, it seemed Phillip had a pretty good life. I don’t know what went wrong. I wish I had noticed. I wish I had been able to ask him the question that has burned in my brain for almost 30 years. I wish I could have asked him back then how I could help. I wish I could have had an impact on Phillip and that he was still with us today. Phillip has had a huge impact on me for the last 30 years.

I have been wanting to write this post for several weeks now. Its ironic that I finally got around to it on the three year anniversary of the day my friend David Turner left his tired and diseased body behind to join his Savior in Heaven. I only knew David for a few months. David and I became friends while I was documenting his life as he lived with stage IV lymphoma. I almost used the word “struggled” with lymphoma. But, for Big Dave, if he was struggling, he tried not to show it. David was strong. Not super human strong, but strong in spirit. You see, even though David knew he was going to die from the cancer that had taken over his body, he was fine with that fact. David knew he had a purpose here on Earth. He told me so. In his last couple of months, in his last couple of weeks, David started a web site and started what is now referred to as Big Dave’s Big Gift, or the David Turner Lymphoma Foundation. David wanted to help families with kids in a similar situation to his own. David selflessly spent a great deal of time, even while he was in hospice, making sure what he was starting would be carried on after he was gone. David was only 25 years old. David has had a huge impact on my life. So much so, that we now both have the same tattoo on our left wrists, “V:III”. Romans 5:3-4 says, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” I thank God for David’s perseverance, his character and the hope he displayed every day.

Here is my hope and my challenge to you, each and every one of you that read this. IMPACT. Have an impact on someone else’s life. There are so many things you can do to make a difference in this world. But, most importantly, do NOT wait to make a difference. Dedicate yourself now to helping others, sharing your skills or just being a friend to that person that looks like they could use a friend. There are so many ways you can have an impact on others. Use your time wisely. Make a difference.

I really wish I had the opportunity to meet Kayla, and even though I only knew David for a few months, it feels like a lifetime. And though Phillip has had an impact on my life, I wish I could roll back the clock and have an impact on his.

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