Visited one of my favorite new hidden gems in Albany before the rain came. I am looking forward to doing some shoots here in the next few weeks! This spot is only 10 minutes from my house and it’s always so peaceful. I love peering into the community garden and seeing what’s growing and what’s in season; the sunflowers are starting to pop up and I was able to catch a few tall stalks in action.

I felt an hour visiting the farm and preserve was warranted after a very difficult week. My maternal grandfather passed away on Tuesday and I spent a majority of the week in Connecticut being with family for the services. Papa was 90 years old when he died, a Korean War vet, a husband to my grandmother for almost 60 years, a father to two daughters, a grandfather to seven grandchildren, and a great-grandfather to three great-grandchildren. But much more than that, he was seriously the sweetest, kindest, most gentle and genuine soul I think I have and will ever meet. And EVERYONE who knew him said the same exact thing. I just feel that it’s so special to be able to look back upon someone’s life with such happy, beautiful memories. I know the man was human, and of course he wasn’t perfect, but he sure was close. Lots of cousins of mine who called him Uncle Joe, were also quick to call him Saint Joe. He suffered from Alzheimer’s the last few years of his life, and things grew progressively difficult for my grandmother, my mom and my aunt in taking care of him. He passed away peacefully with all of them surrounding his bedside on July 13th. We gave him a terrific send-off and celebrated his wonderful, long life.

It almost hasn’t set in completely for me. I am normally the first and last to cry my eyes out when something sad happens, but I found myself barely crying throughout the week. What I noticed more though, was the strength my grandmother had throughout his wake and burial. I never doubted her strength, especially after knowing how much she did for her husband and herself (even after being diagnosed with leukemia a few years ago). I don’t think I’ve ever met a stronger woman; I admire her so much, and I hope to one day have even an ounce of that strength in my own life.

One of the few silver linings of my grandfather’s passing was being able to see so much family from near and far. My mom’s cousins from Louisiana came up to be with us, as well as two other cousins from Florida, and today my great-aunt, my grandmother’s sister came up from Georgia. I was most impressed with my brother, Yousef, who traveled 21 hours from Amman, Jordan to say goodbye to his grandfather and spend time with us. It’s weird to have these “feel good” moments during such a weird and sad time, but Papa would have been so happy seeing us all together, and he would’ve been celebrating his life with us too, with a glass of red wine watered down with ice cubes (his signature drink).

We all reminisced over Papa’s many stories and all the memories we made with him. He talked so frequently about his beloved Bronx, his mother, his multitude of siblings, his travels to Argentina, his time delivering telegrams to Yankee Stadium. He lived a beautiful, fascinating life, and what’s more is he loved to tell us about it and share it with us.

We’ll miss you, Papa. “See you sooner rather than later.”

Normanskill Farm Visit & Reflecting