To say that we lost one of the good ones sounds cliche, and may well be, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. Last Tuesday morning we lost Anne Boyle, who was one of the kindest, finest, and most compassionate people I ever had the pleasure of knowing.
To her, family was everything. The sun rose and set on them; six children, fourteen grandchildren, and countless friends who were as good as adopted over the years. On any given day, her home was filled with visitors, her children stopping by to see her, grandchildren in for a few minutes between school and sports. It was always lively, always warm and welcoming.
It was Anne who first welcomed me into the Boyle family five years ago, when Mandy and I first started dating. She approved of me – and liked me – right from the start, and from that point on I was family in her eyes. When Mandy and I moved in together later that same year, she approved of it, even when others were hesitant. In fact, I am certain that the warm welcome I’ve received from the family at large is, in large part, due to her approval of me. And I am so thankful for it.
Over the past few years, I’ve shot hundreds of photos of the family – Christmas, Easter, birthdays, regular days. If there’s a gathering, and I’m there, the camera is usually with me. But when I went back to pull images for her memorial, I realized that of all the photos I’ve taken, Anne was present in only a few. She was an expert at dodging the lens. I knew this, knew from experience that she’d rather have photos of her family than of herself. But until I had all the files laid out in front of me, I never realized how good she was at slipping out of the scene.
On one hand it makes me smile, because it’s so like her, never wanting to be the center of attention, always worrying about everyone else and never about herself. But at the same time, it saddens me. I wish I had asked her to sit for an actual portrait, even just once.
She was absent from the family portrait I took this past Easter, already sick from the cancer and in the hospital.
But the rest of the family was together, and at her request we assembled outside before Easter dinner and took a big group shot. I wanted to get it printed and framed for her, but it never happened. She saw the photos on her computer, but her illness moved too fast, and the prints were never made.
I take some solace, however, from the fact that she had another photo of mine hanging in her living room for the last year of her life. It was another group shot, a panorama print of her and her husband, Joe, at their 50th anniversary dinner. Most of the family is there with them. They are all smiling, and Anne herself is aglow amid them. This one I did print, and bought a frame, and cut the matte myself. It was my gift to them for their anniversary, and I know that she loved it.
That print sat next to her casket at the viewing. Everyone stopped to admire it. And when I saw this, it brought me to tears. I didn’t know her as long or as well as I wish I could have. But I know that she loved that print, and for that I am incredibly thankful that I was able to make it for her, to do something that brought joy into her life.
I’m going to miss her very much, as I know the rest of her family will. She was truly one of the best.