Earlier this year in July, my 71-year-old Aunt Marie passed away. Three months later in October, we had our annual family reunion. I was surprised with a gift that Aunt Marie had wrapped for me prior to her death. This gift, among others, were found when her house was cleaned out. There were gifts meant to celebrate her loved ones’ anniversaries, birthdays, and even Christmas. My gift, in particular, was because I was named after her… Tammy Marie. For whatever reason, these gifts remained in a closet, unforgotten until they were discovered by her sister.
I waited almost a month to open this present because I wanted to photograph it as I opened it. I expected to open a sweet gift from a sweet aunt—an aunt who regularly sent me birthday cards into my 40s. I thought it was the neatest thing to have the opportunity to open an unexpected gift from someone after they had passed away. I anticipated a moment to feel a tangible love from someone who had already passed away.
This is very difficult to explain, but my hopes of a sweet memory were crushed before I even unwrapped the gift. I almost wish I had never opened it. It would have been easier to have just left it wrapped only to imagine what may be inside. It would have been less painful too.
Inside the spiritual note card, I deciphered irony and contradiction in my aunt’s writing. While the card began and ended with kind words, the words in the middle stung my eyes and reopened childhood wounds. My aunt made hateful references to my own mother’s mental illness, yet it was evident to me that she was experiencing the same. These were words she never would have uttered in her right frame of mind. It hurt my heart to read them, but at the same time I recognized an illness that had reared its ugly head many times during my own youth.
While the words are very hurtful, I know they are the words spoken from a disease and not from the sweet aunt I remember. If I was not familiar with mental illness, I would blame her… even in her death. But, I am not mad at her for making these statements or calling my mother these names. I recognize it for it is—a sickness.
Sadly, one in four adults suffer from a mental disease in any given year. (Ironically, I received this gift about a week after World Mental Health Day.) Because of the stigma, many refuse to seek medical help. As in my mother’s case, many can’t even recognize that they need medical help. If you or someone you know might be experiencing mental illness, seek medical advice. Support an organization who helps support people with mental illnesses. Do something to bring awareness to this illness. People shouldn’t have to suffer inside their own minds. Together, we can remove the stigma.
I am a San Antonio-based wedding and senior photographer who started Ata-Girl Photography Co., LLC in 2010. As one of the up-and-coming San Antonio wedding photographers, I am also available to shoot in Austin, Houston and Dallas and the surrounding areas. I am also available for destination weddings worldwide. Ata-Girl Photography Co. offers an amazing wedding photography service that you won’t soon forget. As a professional photographer, my sole purpose is to provide you the absolute best photography experience.
I am a professional photographer who enjoys documenting the important milestones and captivating moments in people’s lives. I firmly believe that the unique set of circumstances I have faced in life has prepared me to take a personal and genuine interest in my photography clients. When I’m not photographing a wedding, family or high school senior, I enjoy watching my daughter play softball, hiking, cycling, reading, and listening to Elvis!
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