What I learned from Grandma

In March of last year, I did a blog post about the importance of photographing the people you love. Photography has many strengths and value in our lives, but I could argue that preserving memories and creating moments is one of its greatest strengths.  I've always had a weak memory... not sure why. I can remember brief emotions I felt at a period of time, or how a song takes me to a moment, or a still frame of a detail at a scene. Yet, in general my memory tends to be a be cloudy, like a faded movie cut up into tiny pieces. Photography has served me not only be fueling my passion and communicating my vision, but also preserving my vision and solidifying important memories. Whenever I experience a moment I truly want to remember, I take a 'memory photo' if I know that elements of the moment would be lost in my mind.

This Monday my Grandmother passed away, and now I appreciate the images I took of her more than ever. I've looked at them a dozen times to appreciate the emotion and memories that the images bring up.

Grandma, Photographing the People you Love by Lindsay Adler
Grandma, Photographing the People you Love by Lindsay Adler

What's tough about life and loss, for me, is more about the pain that others feel. I have no doubt that my grandmother is in a better place. In the last few months of her life, her sharp wit and eloquence had deteriorated rapidly and it was clear she didn't want to continue in this lesser state of existence. Yet what pains me is the pain my family, particularly my father feels. My dad was a great son. He did everything he could for his mother. He called her every day. Visited her often. Would buy her anything she needed. He was a great role model of how I should be a better child. So through this ordeal, all I can do is hope I can ease the pain of my family.

I'd like to take a moment to talk about what my Grandmother taught me in my experiences with her, and appreciate those lessons. Grandparents to me have always seen like mythical creatures-- all loving, wise, with the ability to see beyond the now into the 'what can be'. I was lucky in my life to have four wonderful grandparents that loved me and their families deeply. Unfortunately, with the loss of my grandmother, I have no grandparents remaining. Yet they have contributed many important things to my life.

My grandmother was a very strong-willed, eloquent and intelligent woman. I feel that I got much of my drive, love of language and passion from her. Here are a few things I feel she imparted to me.

1. Be a strong woman: My grandma was a strong woman. When she spoke, she spoke with force without being too forceful. Although most of her life she did not have a job, that never meant that she took a lesser place in the family.  She did not stand for disrespect. She allowed her intelligence and thoughtfulness to earn her respect. My grandmother always encouraged me to be a strong women in all forms of the word. She encouraged me to be successful in my career and education. She always taught me that I don't have to put up with crap from anyone. I don't need to deal with anyone treating me poorly or pulling me down in life. If I accept something lesser in life, then I deserve it... so I should always aim for bigger and better.

2. There are no excuses: Later on in her life, we had several discussion about achievement, life, and life's obstacles. It was sometimes amusing to see how she didn't accept excuses as excuses. At one point in my life I had let a bad break up situation bring me down, and her response was basically "Onwards and Upwards".  There were no situations in life that could be used as excuses-- no one else will truly care about what reasons you have for failure or distress. You must always push past these things. Life is only as good as you make it. She lived this throughout her life, particularly with the last decade of life when she encountered MANY unfortunate situations. Yet she didn't give up... she pushed past the obstacles to live. She taught me really to step back in life, and see that most of my problems were only temporary and that I must see them in this light. There were always bigger things waiting for me around the corner, in her view.

3. The beauty of language: My grandmother loved language. She always prided herself upon selecting JUST the right word to communicate a feeling or concept. She loves the nuances between different words, and how these slight differences can mean a world of difference when communicating. I could only ever hope to be as eloquent as my grandmother. Yet as a child and even as an adult, hearing her careful and proud choice of words was always inspiring.  I feel that much of my academic strength and success as a communicator has come from my grandmother.


In short, my grandmother was not just a grandmother who nurtured me as a child. The lessons she taught me (through our conversations and through how she lived her life) are important lessons that have shaped who I am as a woman today. I loved her so much and was able to spend a few days with her this December as her health began to fade. I am lucky to have known her not just as a grandmother, but also as a woman. I will miss her, and I already do, but I am thankful for how she has shaped me.

  • Diane May

    I’m so sorry for your loss. You Grandmother was a beautiful woman and I’m so glad you have some special photos of her as well as memories of your time spent together. Thanks for sharing your life lessons.

  • Erin Denny

    You have my deepest condolences.
    You also have my heartfelt thanks for sharing such a thoughtful well written piece.
    I am truly moved and would like to share it with friends.

  • Lindsay,
    The portrait you made of your grandmother is beautiful and so are your words. I understand what you said about how your memory works; mine is quite similar. I’m afraid my grandmother won’t be with us much longer either and, for that reason, I flew out to see and photograph her just a few months ago. I wish I had been a photographer 15 years ago, since I might then have a good portrait of my father, too.
    Thank you for sharing a bit of your heart with us,
    –Nathan Chilton

  • Linda Brisson

    Lindsay – you were truly blessed to have her as was she to have your Dad, Mom and you and your sister.

    Today is the 2nd anniversary of my Dad’s death and, although, I usually don’t dwell on dates, your words were especially meaningful. I have learned through the last few years that our loved ones remain with us always in the fabric of our beings, in our values, thoughts and words. How wise of you to learn this so early in your life. You have beautiful roots and are a beautiful person. My love to you and your family as you process all of this.

  • Crystal

    So sorry for your loss! I love that your family is such an important part of you – what a rare gift that seems to be these day. Thanks so much for sharing.!

  • My sincerest condonlences go to you and the family. Theres no way to express the immitiate pain you feel when you find out a member of the family we so much love and admire and appreciate passes to the next life as I went through the same with the last of the grandparent, Mi abuelo Nico. Even if you know time is near you visit, laugh and talk try to cram in as much as you can theres never enough time. So a “photo” a fragrance or even a song will bring the great memories to life and be treasured for eternity. By the way it was your book I took to Puerto Rico when I visited last with grandpa. Continue to live by your grandmother teachings it shines through in your work. Lindsay thank you and the best the universe has to offer are sent your way.

  • M. Rick Richards

    So sorry to hear about the passing of your grandmother. It’s been many years
    Since mine passed. You were so lucky to have her in your life and I’m sure you
    she felt the same! I can see some of you in the photo you made of her.
    Keep moving forward, but don’t forget the guidance that got you to
    where you are.

  • Great article! Nicely done.

  • Sebastian

    So Sorry for your loss… Other than the images of her, that are precious to you, the most endearing thing she left you was, all the experiences she had throughout all her wonderful years, all compressed into your memories… now you have twice the strength, and are twice the woman she wanted you to be… I am so glad to have met you … You are very thoughtful and from meeting you, I sense the strength you have…

    Peace and Love,

  • Jim

    Lovely story Lindsay.
    I met you at WPPI and can see your grandmother in you, articulate, charming & eloquent. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

  • Wonda

    Wow Lindsay,
    I am sorry for your loss! You totally described me and my relationship with my grandma. My heart is with you as I know how you feel. My grandma too has passed and I know she is in a better place and I miss her very much. As a photographer I cherish the photographs I have of her. I really miss our conversations of what heaven will be like. Her picture is in my living room and I look at her and smile every day. Thank you for your words they have made me feel not so alone.
    God Bless!
    Love Wonda

  • wendy Deis

    What a beautiful tribute to your Grandmother.

  • Lindsay.

    My condolences on your loss. Losing a loved one is never an easy time in one’s life, and the fact that you have the strength to write this only a few days later is a great testament to your family. Clearly, your grandmother was a great influence in your life, and I’m sure she’s extremely proud of the adult you have become. Having lost my grandparents as well, I often look back at the photos and cherish the wonderful memories they provide. Thank you for writing this and explaining so eloquently what many of us feel, but can not express.

    Thanks again,

  • GWC

    Sorry for your loss…thanks for sharing this post.

  • sorry for your loss and you can be proud of being what you are today, you followed her steps and diserve your success!!! following you from old Europe 🙂
    take care

  • Nan

    May you always be so articulate in your Grandma’s honor! You are a gifted photographer and a truly intelligent and world-wise young woman. I remember reading your article about her last year. May her memory and your family’s collective memories help you through this difficult time. You are a wonderful granddaughter.

    Today is my brother’s Yarzeit.

    Thank you for posting this today.

  • Anne Rosthauser

    Lindsay There is a little bit of our love ones that will remain in our hearts forever..Your Grandmother sounds like a wonderful woman and is a part of who you are today…Your thoughts will keep her close to your heart..Thinking of you at this difficult time…

  • This is so beautiful. You all will be in my thoughts and prayers.

  • meganpixels

    Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt message about your grandmother. Having lost two grandparents already this message brought the theme of “family” into perspective.

    The photo of her featured on this entry captures a tenacious, ethereal gem. From an artistic/objective perspective I LOVE the curl above her brow line mimicking her smile below.

    My thoughts and prayers are with your family at this time. I pray you all are able to find peace.

  • Linda Autry

    What a beautiful relationship you had with such a beautiful woman inside/out. I truly believe she smiles from the heavens knowing you feel this way about her. I love how you take nothing for granted and your gratefulness in how her words affected you are gorgeous … and now your words will help others … It’s amazing to me the beautifulness of photography but the beautifulness of words … well let’s just say … LIFE is forever amazing. yes?
    My condolences for your loss Lindsay.

  • I’m sad for your loss. The ordeal of losing a grandparent is just plain hard. Perhaps part of that difficulty is rooted in the profound impact they have on us as we grow up. A former teacher of the year once stated that every kid needs at least one adult in their life that is irrationally positive about them… I’m sure your Grandma was / would be / is proud of you. Just from your book, blog, and web presence, you strike me as strong, articulate woman. And I know I don’t know you personally… just saying that’s how you come across.

    Again, I’m sad for this loss. But I’m glad that you were able to experience your grandma’s presence in your life. I’m glad that you were nurtured and taught by her. I’m glad you were able to love and share part of each others lives.

    Thank you for taking the time to share this.

  • Mike Mackenzie

    I’m very sorry for your loss. What a beautiful, eloquent tribute to your Grandmother.

  • Sue

    This was lovely to read. Your grandmother taught you a lot. May you meet again someday.

  • Daylelynn Davis

    What wonderful memories of your grandmother and how she touched your life. I can only hope that someday my granddaughters with have such beautiful thoughts of me …

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