Ever since I can remember, I have always loved stories. Hearing them; telling them; living them. Stories seemed to bring magic to any ordinary moment, making it feel infinitely more powerful after the fact than I remember it in real time.
As a photographer, I cherish that I get to be a story teller with my work each and every day. This has come to be one of my favorite parts of my job. But some stories, I've found, are easier to tell than others.
Raquel's story is one of the hard ones.
I have encountered my fair share of loss. With each passing, I'm reminded that loosing a loved one is never easy but, the reminder is never lost on me upon it's arrival. Last Thanksgiving, I lost a beloved friend. It has taken me nearly a year to fully grasp her loss and to be honest, I don't truly feel like I really have... most days, it doesn't feel real. But, I want to share her with you. Because hers is a story I don't ever want the world to forget.
Raquel and I first met in high school. We instantly bonded over our strong love for fashion and strong dislike for high school (teenagers disliking high school? Shocker, I know!). Raquel was SO COOL, y'all. I'm talking the kind of cool that makes the 'cool kids' look outdated. She somehow always looked like a down-to-earth movie star in my eyes. She gave new life to vintage clothing, wore red lipstick and Coco Chanel perfume, made her own jewelry, listened to music on vinyl - I mean, how was she only 14??? She always felt like an old soul. Needless to say, from the moment we met, we were attached at the hip. I used to wake up early and drive to her house just so we could spend the morning together before school. We would get dressed, eat breakfast with her family, and then sing out hearts out to Jenny Lewis the whole way to school.
We spent the years of our youth going on adventures and falling in love with boys and I am blessed to have brought her friendship with me beyond the walls of that high school. I was a year older than Raquel in school so I would come home on the weekends and 'report back' about the ways of the real world. We would write letters, send each other mix cd's, newspaper clippings, art and care packages. We never got the chance to live in the same city again but Raquel was the kind of friend that you stayed close with, no matter the distance.
For a while after she graduated, she went abroad to England and Canada to do missionary work. During this time, she wrote me letters telling me of her foreign adventures and her deep desire for love. I kept every letter.
When she returned to the states to finally attend college, we were able to resume our weekly phone dates. She was commuting back and forth from New Braunfels to San Marcos, so it gave us ample time to ask the hard questions and uplift one another through whatever life was throwing at us at the time. A few years into her program, her lifelong dream came true and she met the love of her life - the husband she had so deeply and faithfully prayed for. It was, and is, a life love that makes birds sing. I will never forget her whimsical, magical wedding amongst the trees.
Last Thanksgiving, Raquel was taken from us suddenly in an unexpected car accident. This news still shocks me and I still can't believe it. It feels almost cruel that her death and her birth happened in the same week, 27 years apart.
A few days before Thanksgiving this year, we gathered in her home to celebrate the light that was and is Raquel. We shared stories, ate alllll the food, made wreaths, laughed, cried, lit a candle for our girl and sang her happy birthday, and just cherished being in her home - a space that was so artfully and intentionally designed by our girl.
Raquel's story is one of the hard ones. But it is also a powerful story. Full of love and beauty, hearty laughs and magic. One that I am honored to have been a part of. And honored to continue telling and sharing with the world.
"Make something beautiful and release it." We love you, my dear friend.