One of the things I love about my job as a photographer and self -titled “Master Imprinter” is that every day is an adventure. I meet fascinating people and visit interesting places, however sometimes the places I am asked to go to are quite confronting. I’ve witnessed my share of illness, accidents and death as I am often asked to take Imprints of people that have passed away most of these precious souls sadly have been children. After I became a mum, I have personally struggled with emotions attached to my “Angel Imprint Work” so it was no surprise that I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in 2016. PTSD affects people who have experienced a traumatic event or a series of events in their life. I learned that PTSD is common amongst those serving in the army, police, fire and ambulance personnel who have witnessed trauma, many of which do not seek professional help. I didn’t think doing my work would have such an effect on my life but it did, and to this day I am still working through my own fears and anxieties about life and death. The good news is that I have developed a deep respect for both and I am overflowed with gratitude at the beginning and end of each day for the gift of life.
It was the day before Father’s Day that I received an email from a woman who had lost her dad. She asked if I would be willing to take imprints of his hands and without hesitation made arrangements to visit him. My heart ached knowing this would be her first Father’s Day without him and these imprints would be the closest thing to ever touching his hands again.
The weather matched my mood, it was cold dreary and raining, not ideal conditions when making your way to a funeral home. Upon entering I was taken downstairs to the morgue, I tried to keep my thoughts positive (as it’s easy to let your mind wander in places like these!) The man who I will name “George” was dressed in his best outfit with shiny brown shoes as he was due to be visited by his family so my time with him was limited. As I reached for his hand, I learned that George had passed away at the ripe old age of 91 years old and I felt somewhat privileged to be imprinting someone who lived such a long life. Every day I imprint babies that are only days old and here I was on the other side holding a hand that was almost a century old! I did some maths and some handy google searching and worked out that he would have been born in the “roaring 20’s” in 1927 to be exact. This era was when a trip to the movies was to see a silent black and white film, Audrey Hepburn, Albert Einstein and Ronald Reagan were just some celeb names of that time. Coco Chanel was the first designer to make pants for women. The cost to build a home in Sydney was around $1500-$3000. The average weekly income for an adult was $4.35 for a 50hr week and a loaf of bread was 2c! Whoa how times have changed. As I held George’s hand I thought of all the history and wisdom that came with him, I thought of how his hands would have cradled his great grandchildren, held his wife’s hand for their very first date, what he did for a trade, so many scenarios running through my mind but the whole time I was with him I had a smile on my face knowing that George was one of the lucky ones to live for a long time. He had experienced a full life and hopefully passed away peacefully. I said goodbye to George and left him feeling light, on this occasion I got the chance to meet someone who’s life wasn’t cut tragically short, that lots of people live long and sometimes very long lives. I was reminded yet again to embrace the mystery of life.
That same afternoon I took my kids to their swimming lessons and the youngest refused to get changed, she cried and demanded that she wasn’t swimming that day. Normally I would give her a long-winded explanation of why she had to go and how mummy and daddy paid lots of money for these lessons but this time I didn’t challenge her, we had a snack instead and cuddled for half an hour while we watched her sister swim. She was happy and so was I. I thought to myself life is what we make of it and today I choose to be peaceful and not sweat the small stuff. Tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us, but for a lucky few they get to live a full and fruitful life just like my friend George who was kind enough to teach me a great lesson about life even when his time on this earth had ended.
By Marie Ramos – Best Baby hands and feet sculptures