Puerto Vallarta Sunset, June 2016
This summer is 20 years since my oldest son, Ryan’s death. Depression and disappointments gathered in a storm that we all underestimated, leaving us in a tidal wave of shock and loss. His death from suicide so deeply affected all of us that each year on July 1st we observe the Eastern tradition of Death Day, a celebration of the life of a departed family member. We stop and gather or phone each other to share memories, talk about what he would have been like today. Part comfort and consolation – part celebration. His life ripples constantly through our own in ways that are deeper and more meaningful than any other loss. I composed this photo of the sunset at Puerto Vallarta a few weeks ago. I always think of Ryan as I frame that red sliver of fading sunset, especially when it is reflected in the wet sands of beach – the illusion of presence at the moment of absence in such a dichotomously beautiful way. Fourth of July will ever be our Death Day celebration of Ryan. This year we gathered, friends and families, at the Diamond O Camp in the Stanislaus National Forest for the long weekend. His younger brother, Gavin, fond of the last photograph of them together at the top of Yosemite Falls, was inspired by that image to plan a family hike to the same spot in celebration. We create our own counterpoints of his presence in his absence.