A tribute to my father, 10 years later

To preface this, I want to let you know before reading that this blog post isn’t related to a session I’ve done, but rather, pays tribute to somebody in my life who was taken way too soon. I wanted to share my dad, who, throughout the 19 years I had with him, alongside my mom, introduced my siblings and I to a life full of love and art and adventure. My parents are the reason I’m a photographer, and my dad’s passing is the reason it’s so much more special to me.

I lost my dad 10 years ago today, and the memories of that day and the days before and the days that followed are burned into my memory in ways that I can’t describe. His death was so cataclysmically sudden, and the world as I had known it became so much darker and more challenging. In all reality, life went on, but it wasn’t the same again, and I think it took five or six years of processing before I began seeing any sort of light or true joy. I can’t speak on behalf of my siblings, or my mom, or dad’s siblings, or his mom, or any of his friends.  But what I can do is share him, the way that I knew him. And you may be wondering why I’m choosing to share this post on my website. Honestly, I just needed somewhere to write, because I feel like the ten year mark is something worth writing about and honoring him by. Also I don’t know if Facebook will let me post the four page essay. I’m not writing it for the comments or the likes or the views. I just want to share him how I knew him.

To those who have also gone through losing a parent, I hope you know that I’m here for you. I understand. And I’m always here to talk. This is a long post, so bear with me. Without further ado, my dad:

“Seyer, you NEED a little girl.”

Every year on my birthday, my dad would either make a Facebook post, or tell me the story himself, about how before I was born, one of his old friends would tell him how he needed a daughter. And then he got me. A daughter who refused to smile for photos, who always had a sassy comeback, and who was so much of a perfectionist that she’d cry at even the slightest mess-up (unless that mess-up meant she could throw her younger sister under the bus to avoid getting in trouble. Don’t worry. She did it to me, too). He got a daughter who shared some of his most infamous traits: stubborn and hard headed, emotional, somebody who likes to be in charge and likes to be noticed, a chronic gift giver, a nonstop rambler, and quite honestly, a little dramatic (what can I say, I learned from the best).

My dad wasn’t perfect. He made a lot of mistakes. He had a temper, and never shied away from his emotions. He held high expectations, and dreams that stretched to the stars. He aspired to be the best and have the best of everything. And boy was he proud. Proud of the life he built. Proud of his accomplishments. Proud of the days he took on new challenges. And ferociously proud of his family. My God, did he let us know how much he loved us. He so desperately wanted to keep us close, and I’ll be the first to admit that our lives may look drastically different had he still been alive today. No, I don’t believe he would’ve ever kept us from our dreams. But I do think he always wished our dreams would keep us a little closer to home. With my brother now in Bellingham, Washington, and my sister in Springfield, Missouri, and me just 20 minutes from the house we grew up in, I don’t think it’s possible for him to be prouder. In all reality, I think he would’ve come around to Jacob and Jordan moving away, because it’d mean he’d find more reasons to visit Silver Dollar City, or explore the Pacific Northwest. I’ll never forget the time he took a business trip to Portland, Oregon and upon returning home, told me this outrageous story of how he farted so hard that he blew out the windows of the office he was in. And you best believe that my elementary aged self ate that story up, and proceeded to tell everybody about how impressively my dad could fart.

There are a lot of memories that have flooded my mind these last few weeks. To most, they may seem miniscule. He had the best taste in music – a mix between classic rock, carefully curated with a hodge podge of funk and disco, bluegrass, “oh my gosh it’s Jesse McCartney!” country music (“they have the best harmony”), and anything Jacob could play. If he had a good day, or just needed a pick me up, we could count on him to pull into the garage, speakers from the suburban maxed out, jamming to AC/DC or Black Eyed Peas. We’d all stand at the garage door watching him head bang throughout the entirety of the song. Jordan wrote today that he always had one dirty pant leg from stomping up the dust in his suburban.

He would plan the most extravagant vacations (with a perfect driving playlist, if we weren’t watching Looney Tunes on the drive) where the days would start with activities first thing in the morning and would stretch until long after the sun had set. He had a strict mentality of getting your money’s worth. And while those days were exhausting, they also held some of the best memories. Disney World, Silver Dollar City, the American Girl doll store in Chicago (two years in a row, at that), IMAX movies, playing in the ocean, Forest Park and Six Flags (only if we got the free tickets from reaching our reading goals that school year), Elephant Rock and Johnson Shut Ins, broadway shows at the Fox, and so much more. He and mom even made the days in town special, with random drives across the old Mississippi River bridge on Sundays after church, family get-togethers at Auntie Bev’s house, birthdays at CiCi’s, homemade ice cream and the biggest and best burgers.

I cherish the late night conversations we would have, though most of the time, there was usually some lecture regarding my punctuality after getting my license, or something along the lines of me being old enough to date but still a sassy five year old in his eyes. I miss the fall dinners at St. Augustine where he and I made the dessert table our pecan pie mission. It was a game changer once I learned how to make it in high school. I want our drives and daddy-daughter dates back, complete with butter pecan or rainbow sherbet ice cream by the river, or the drives where he’d just point out a location and say “that would be a good spot for pictures.”

It’s no secret that my siblings and I got the majority of our artistic talents from mom, and it’s no secret how much dad supported the arts. They’re a big reason I’m a photographer today. I remember asking for a disposable camera in Chicago and all of the photos I took during that trip. Dad and I went to Walgreens late one night and sat outside the building waiting for the photos to be developed. It was just the two of us and we talked about how valuable photos were. When he and mom bought me my first digital camera at 14, he told me “never delete a photo. Even if it’s not good, it’s worth keeping.” (I’m now a photo hoarder. Thanks, dad). At 16, I asked for my first DSLR camera for Christmas – a Nikon D3100. It was a scene straight out of A Christmas Story, but instead of a Red Ryder BB Gun, it was a camera. And the rest was history.

He had had a random seizure a month before his passing and it changed his perspective on life. Two days before, he and I went to Buffalo Wild Wings, where he told me that if he were to pass tomorrow, he thinks he would be okay, and that he felt at peace with his life. The day before, and moments before he left, I sent him with the St. Christopher medal he had given me before my very first trip out of the country. That night, he and his friends went to Busch Stadium for game 6 of the NLCS – Cardinals vs Dodgers. And the Cardinals won and were headed to the World Series. I heard dad made it on the jumbotron. I am so grateful that his last night on earth was one for the books. There’s no better way I would want him to go.

He passed the next morning:  during my first semester of college, three days before my sister’s 16th birthday, a semester before my brother graduated from SEMO, six months after his own father’s passing – our Grandpa Seyer –  and one week before his uncle – our Great Uncle Jim. There’s no doubt in my mind how proud he would be of us now. The artists we became. The lives we’ve led. He wasn’t quite himself after he lost his own dad, and I didn’t quite understand the level of sadness he was experiencing, and how he couldn’t move past it. It wasn’t until dad’s passing that I truly began to understand grief in its fullest form. It’s been ten years. The Lion King hits differently. I can’t listen to How Great Thou Art. Dads giving their daughters away on their wedding days and dancing with them for their father-daughter dance makes me teary. I’m left with nothing but memories, and the photos and home videos and endless stories. Life has gone on, but it’s not the same.

His life was full of love, and was surrounded by the biggest and best family. He knew no stranger. He never got to meet my husband, but I know he would have loved him (and frankly, probably would’ve tried to derby or race with him.) He should’ve been there for our graduations, for our weddings. Our future children should’ve gotten a chance to know and love their Grandpa Seyer. The only thing that brings me any sort of peace is thinking that he’s holding onto them now, until it’s their time to join us earthside. He should’ve been here. And while his passing was unexpected, we never held resentment or anger or blame towards anyone or anything. It wasn’t going to change the reality.  Many of us expressed guilt, wondering if there was more that could’ve been done. I’m not going to say that God wanted him more than we did, or that it was just his time. I do believe everything happens for a reason.  And I’m still figuring out what that reason is. It was absolutely a catalyst for my life, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today had it not happened. This loss has taught me the importance of a photo, and I think that’s what makes me love my career path even more. After all is said and done, sometimes a photo is all you have left. WIth my dad, there was somehow simultaneously no shortage of photos of him, but also never enough. What I wouldn’t give for one more conversation, or one more goofy photo with him though.

His passing has taught me love, and forgiveness, and it certainly reminds me that we’re human. Everybody wants to remember the good, but I also remember the imperfections and that brings me peace, too, because I’m far from perfect. I’m grateful for the earthly guardian angels he has sent my way, and for the multitudes of people who have looked out for us over the years. I’m grateful for my mom, who has taken on being two parents in one, and for continuing to help us pursue our dreams. Thank you for all of the aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and parents of friends who have taken us under your wings. Thank you to his friends – to the ones that gave him the best last night, and the ones who have continued carrying his class of 83 legacy. I am so grateful for all of you.

To end this impossibly long post, because, as mentioned, I inherited my rambling from my dad, I leave you with this quote from William Martin:

“Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life. Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples, and pears. Show them how to cry when pets and people die. Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

To my mom and dad, thank you for making our lives extraordinary in the most ordinary of ways. Dad, I miss you. I love you. And I look forward to the day where we can sit on a (hopefully cleaner) street outside of a heavenly Walgreens and go through all of the photos you’ve missed out on. I have so much to show you, and the rest is still developing.

Love Always,

– Taylor

The Journal