A Very Special Slideshow
by Elizabeth Boisson
Hello, wonderful Parents!
I received one of the most beautiful gifts ever from Rick Wilcoxson, our first Helping Parents Heal photographer, who is also a Shining Light Dad of Anthony and Michael and a volunteer, who sent me a slideshow of our First Helping Parents Heal Conference in Scottsdale that he put together in honor of the last day of the conference that should have taken place in Charleston on April 19th.
Thanks to the hard work and compassion of numerous Shining Light Parents, including Rick and Irene Vouvalides, our Conference Chair, Jason Durham, our Chief Information Officer, Heidi Hanson, who created the slideshow with Jason, Tony Allen, who donated and ran all of the A/V equipment and myself, as well as our incredible Presenters and Volunteers, and Karl Fink of Streaming for the Soul, we were able to hold this wonderful event for over 500 parents and were so looking forward to our Second Helping Parents Heal Conference!
As you know, it has been postponed, but it will be better than ever! Thank you, dear Rick, for capturing the essence of the Conference in your slideshow and in your summary; this journey that we make together is all about LOVE! Please be sure to read to the end to find the links to our children's slideshow and to a slideshow of pictures of the conference!
A VERY SPECIAL SLIDESHOW, by Rick Wilcoxson
I am a father who has two deceased children. I am a member of the group no one wants to join but am grateful it is here to allow us to support each other through the difficult journey.
I was asked to take photographs to memorialize the first Helping Parents Heal Conference in Phoenix, 2018.
I was determined to do my best to capture each presenter and as many of the attendees as possible. As a photographer, I wanted to get images that represented the entire event. I moved from room to room of simultaneous events trying to catch the essence of each message being shared and when possible, the reaction and emotions of the audience. The painful experience we have in common, the loss of our child, is beyond any other. Still, most important to the organizers of the conference was to help counter that pain with hope and love, offered and shared by presenters and fellow attendees alike. I wanted to capture those emotions.
There were many different presentations and facilitators. Though I enjoy my photography hobby, it felt like work and I got only a small portion of each presentation due to the short stint I had in each room. As a bereaved parent, I didn’t get the results intended by the presenters because I didn’t hear a complete presentation. I did however, get a tremendous amount by observing through my lens. I saw parents in room after room watching and listening intently. I tried to not miss anyone and it seemed I was ‘meeting’ everyone in attendance through my camera. I began to recognize faces again and again, though they did not know me, except perhaps as an annoying guy with a camera. I tried to avoid interfering with presentations and with great understanding, not to violate personal space in such an environment where vulnerability is so possible. I watched the faces of despair turn to laughter and joy as experience and understanding was shared. Tears of love and remembrance were shed as validation of our children’s lives and ever remaining spirit was acknowledged and celebrated.
I wanted to participate in some of the healing for myself. Before meetings started for day three, I went to watch the slideshow of photographs of our children whom had passed. I wanted to ‘meet’ the children of the parents I had been ‘meeting’ over the last few days. This was the highlight of the conference for me.
We parents had selected the photographs of our kids that show our children at their best. This is how we choose to remember them and how we would like the world to see them. I saw so much more in those pictures.
I entered an empty side room for the slideshow with the intent of seeing all the children responsible for attendance of this unique conference. It was very moving; beyond my expectations and in a different way than I expected. I sat on a comfy sofa in the dimly lit room as the first photo came on the screen. I quickly was lost in the image and felt the presence of the subject’s spirit. I don’t recall who the first one was and it didn’t matter. The second was the same, and the third, and every single image until the end.
I saw their smiles. Not just on their faces, in the position of their mouths, but in their eyes. Smiles from ear to ear, head to toe, and in body language. I truly felt like I was sensing their spirit, one after another. These were images captured in a fraction of a second from a specific moment in time in the lives of these beautiful people. Somehow I sensed more. I felt I could sense personality and a piece of their spirit.
I was keenly aware that these people had put time into themselves on the day of the photo as well as every moment up to that point in their worlds. They had spent their lives to that point crafting their own personas. They had looked in their mirrors that morning as they combed their hair, shaved, or put on their make-up. They chose their clothes, styles, and accessories to be the best they could be. They were aware and deliberate as to the way they presented themselves to the world. Their locations, activities, props, and body language showed them as unique individuals full of life and love. Each is unique and there will never be another like them.
Some of these children were too young to make the decisions for themselves and some, like my son, had handicaps that wouldn’t allow him to make those decisions. Even in these children, I felt their spirit. The decisions I described above were inconsequential to them but the deeper, more important sense of their humanness seemed to express itself.
My own emotions changed throughout the show. Initially I started to cry for the loss of these mostly young lives I didn’t even know. I do unfortunately know the feeling of loss very well. Then, the more I became aware of their spirits, I felt joy and could feel the love these people felt. I got lost in it and was smiling through photo after photo. I felt as though I was actually meeting them and I was certain they had purpose. Others knew them and they impacted many other lives with their own. I watched it at least three times when I had to go start taking my own photos.
My quest for the weekend, to try to capture emotion in a photograph, apparently had prepared my senses to evaluate fractions of each moment on other peoples’ faces. I was rewarded with sharing those moments captured by many other photographers unknown to me, and chosen for display by parents unknown to me, and the gift was seeing life and love in a photograph.
I hope we all remember that ‘what happened’ to our child doesn’t really matter. What matters is who our child was and what their lives did to enrich ours and those who loved them.
Thank you Helping Parents Heal for doing just that!
The conference was two years ago. Today was scheduled for the first subsequent conference. Unfortunately this meeting was altered due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. We will not be able to see, hold, and hug each other as we did at the last meeting.
We are learning that physical presence and contact is substantial but is not the most important thing in life. We are ALL connected regardless of geography or either side of the veil. May peace and joy be with you all and may the spirit of those you have loved continue to live through you.
The video of the children as described above can be seen at:
I have created another slideshow of images from that first conference. It can be seen at:
- Elizabeth Boisson's Validation with her son Morgan (1)
- The new Helping Parents Heal Youtube Channel!