Thursday, November 30, 2017

birthday thoughts

    I’m not a thinker. I’m not a worrier. I have found that there is no use in my life for stress. I don’t hold grudges. I seem to find it pretty easy to forgive and forget and move on.

    I love people. I love to socialize. I know no strangers. I am blessed with many friends. I have the gift of gab. My wife will confirm all of these things if you ask.

    My friend Jack has an extreme talent for being able to write down words that fully express his life experiences. I wish I had his ability to express my thoughts the way he does.

    This is an attempt to share some thoughts that have been on my mind lately as this day marks the beginning of my 53rd year of sharing life with each of you.

    This day marks the one year anniversary of starting a new job and a new career after 32 years of working for newspapers as a photojournalist. I now work with a wonderful group of people at Duke Vascular Surgery as a staff assistant. Yep, its quite the career change. Not one that I dreamed of or ever even thought about until the opportunity crossed my path.

    I miss the daily grind of newspapers. I miss the people that I had the opportunity to interact with more. I am still new to the staff assistant gig, but hopefully one day I will be as good at it as I am with a camera.

    Tomorrow marks International World AIDS Day. This is important to me. For the longest time I didn’t really know why. My interest started in the late 80s or early 90s, not long after the disease started taking over so many lives. I never ended up doing the story ideas that I had at the time, but not for a lack of effort. There was, and still is today, such a stigma attached to the disease that it was hard to find anyone willing to let me tell their story.

    In 2005 I traveled to Kenya for two weeks photographing people with HIV/AIDS while working through the International Mission Board.

    All along I knew why I had this burning interest to photograph this horrible disease but my mind wouldn't allow it to come to the forefront. You see, I remember all too well a phone call that I received so many years ago from my friend Mark. Mark and I grew up in church youth group together while in middle school and early high school. We acted together in church plays and we hung out occasionally even though we went to different schools.

    I don’t remember the exact year, but Mark moved to Georgia, I think around our sophomore year. We kept in touch with an occasional visit but mostly on the phone. We kept in touch for years. But then we lost touch at some point. I would do searches every now and then trying to track him down. He was often on my mind and I would get aggravated not being able to find a phone number or address to get in touch with him.

    Oh yeah, the phone call. I remember Mark telling me that he had been pretty sick for a while. He said “they think I might have hepatitis from eating some bad shrimp.” We talked several times after this particular phone conversation but he would always skirt the question when I would ask how he was feeling. He never let on just how sick he really was.

    In 2013, I managed to track down Mark’s sister through Facebook and she broke the news to me that Mark lost his battle with AIDS in 2001.

    I knew all along. Mark never said it but I knew. It's one of those things that your mind blocks out.

    I can’t explain it, but there are certain people in my life that cross my mind often. Mark is one of those people. I really do miss him and regret that I wasn't able to spend time with him when he was sick.

    There were several other people that I was going to write about, but I think I will keep this kind of simple. One thing I learned as a journalist is to keep the reader interested and keep the story to the point.

    It is odd for me to write a blog entry without any photos. I have a few pictures of Mark, but mostly on slides. The prints I do have I can’t put my hands on right now but if I don’t finish this post I will not get any sleep tonight. I was actually already in bed but the tears motivated me to get back up and jot down a few words (apparently 756 words at this point, lol).

    I will end with one photo. It is a photo of my daughter’s arm. Her tattoo was done in my handwriting at her request. Romans 5:3 holds a lot of meaning for both of us on several different levels. It is a verse that we live by.

    I try to live this life knowing that no matter what I go through, God is watching over me and protecting me. I also know without a doubt that each of you was put in my life for a reason and that it is no accident or coincidence, but part of God’s plan. This I am very thankful for.

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