Don Coleman: Part II
This isn’t an easy post for me to write. I am currently sitting on an airplane heading back to Texas for my grandfather’s funeral. I am still processing through sadness, but I can’t help but smile. As a photographer, one of my greatest pleasures is sharing my passion and craft with my family. A photoshoot I did with my grandfather five years ago, who was a high school basketball coach and local hero, is what ignited my passion for storytelling in my photography (see Don Coleman: Part I). There is rarely a day that goes by where I don’t think about that time with him.
As the years went on following that shoot, my grandfather’s health continued to deteriorate. In 2018 I started seeing more images of him in my head, just like I had before. But this time I was being stirred to capture something new, something raw. People knew him as Coach Coleman: a locally famous coach who took his team to state and more importantly, molded a generation of young men through his intensity and commitment. But what about as my grandpa? I saw photographs in my mind revealing the reality of the life he was living in his last few years: bound to a wheelchair, struggling to remember people’s names, needing a crane anytime he had to move. But also a tender man full of peace and joy that was always happy to see you. A man who fiercely loved his wife and family and wasn’t afraid to shed a tear when you told him you loved him, too.
Since I was living in California at the time, three thousand miles away from him in Texas, I wrote down the ideas and saved them for another day. There was one particular image that was burned in my mind: Grandpa in his living room in his wheelchair. The way I had seen him every time I visited over the last three years. Day after day this image kept entering my head. I started to get the feeling that if I didn’t act soon I might forever miss the chance to capture it. So I nervously shared this idea with my grandmother when I was in Texas for a few weeks last July and they both happily agreed to do it.
The day had finally arrived and I could barely contain my excitement and nerves. Would I be able to capture the image I kept seeing in my mind? I got everything ready and the caretaker wheeled my grandpa into position. As I looked through the viewfinder and released the shutter all the nerves left and were replaced by tears. I captured the image I had been imagining for over a year. A photo of a man who accomplished so much greatness in his lifetime, yet with a tender and compassionate heart. Now living in a wheelchair and completely dependent on others, but never without a glimmer of swag in his eyes.
I had to take a few seconds to stop and reflect on what had just happened.
I ended up capturing way more images than I thought we would that day. As I was leaving I bent down to give him a hug and told him I loved him. Tears filled both of our eyes as he said he loved me too and was wheeled to his bedroom. And now here I am, six months later, flying back to Houston for his funeral. I can’t help but be thankful for that time we got to spend together. We shared laughs and we shared tears. It was a day with Grandpa that I will always remember. A day my grandchildren and their grandchildren will know about because of the gift of photography and power of story.
So please share your passions with your friends and family. Make memories with them. I promise you won’t regret it.
My grandmother loved my grandfather immensely and took care of his every need for 14 years following his heart attack.
My grandpa had to be lifted out of his wheelchair by a crane to be placed in his favorite chair.
Behind The Scenes