Every stage of life has it’s time and purpose. As photographers, we capture what we see and bring it into life, even when that life is leaving. I find that love and joy are the most powerful emotions when it comes to nostalgia, and I tend to draw my inspiration from those wells. However, with Sweet Pea’s portrait session, it was hard, as we were very close to her and those that loved her.
Years ago, my grandfather met a woman and her daughter taking Sweet Pea to the pound. The little girl’s eyes were filled with tears, he said, and he couldn’t bare to see her heartbreak. We had recently lost my grandmother, an incredible and beautiful woman of gentile grace. My grandfather really didn’t know what to do with life, without her. The story goes that he approached the little girl and told her that Sweet Pea would never have to go in that place, that he would love and care for her for the rest of his days. His relationship with Sweet Pea would change the course of his life, making him a better man and forming a friendship he had never known in his entire life before. This story is particularly powerful to me. My grandfather was an orphan, raised in a catholic orphanage up north. The day he turned sixteen they sent him to the street with quite literally, his belongings wrapped in a satchel. He would enlist in the military and serve out the rest of his career protecting our country, all while raising five children. My grandfather was a tough man and had seen the harshness that life had to offer… And he never had a dog before.
My grandfather and Sweet Pea were inseparable for years, even as he began to get sick. She was his comfort when he was lonely, just as he had protected her. On the day of his passing, his one request to my mom was to take care of Sweet Pea and make sure she was happy. For several more years, my mom would do just that. Once again, Sweet Pea bridged the bonds of life and passing in our family from my grandmother to my grandfather and finally, for my mom. She took her promise to my grandfather very seriously and loved and cared for Sweet Pea. When we heard that Sweet pea would be passing soon, we were determined to capture a story that would last forever.
She gave unconditional love always, and was always happy to see us visit. She would wag her tale when you smiled, and oh man, she could give you the saddest puppy-dog eyes and melt your heart. However, I discovered something else in her portraits. She was regal, she was wild and above all else she was happy. She was happy until the very last.
Thank you, mom, for helping me share this story and being a part of something so beautiful. May we continue to love and grow and strengthen our bonds with each other, and all of us. <3
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Andrea Halsey is a portrait artist and designer in Greensboro, North Carolina. She has been photographing area families for well over a decade, has achieved multiple photography related awards and was featured on the Dr. Oz show after photographing his family portraits. Raised in the Carolinas, she has a love for beautiful landscapes and family values, with complex inspiration from Mark Twain to Kate Spade.