Awhile back, a very, very, very dear friend of ours passed away. I had written this post at that time, but for reasons that are not important, I took it down. I really liked the image, and the majority of the post, but there were…issues.

Not a day has gone by since her passing that I don’t think about Carole. She was a dear friend. But by finally taking Carole, cancer has only partially succeeded in taking her from us. As someone I once knew would say, “It has not won.”

I wish I could say the same about what happened with our relationship to her husband. I really do. But our struggle to deal with losing a woman we both loved deeply — among other things — made it impossible for us to maintain the bond with him. I had hoped that would only be a temporary success for cancer, as well, but it turns out, as they say, that there was too much water under the bridge.

And too many other problems.

I will give him credit for this (among some other things): when Carole was nearing the end, he did get in touch with us through other mutual friends, and gave us an opportunity to come see Carole for one last goodbye at the hospice a couple of days before her passing.

Aside from being reminded by all this that we are all far from perfect people, I re-learned the lesson that everyone grieves in their own way. My grief may take a different shape than that of others. I may not always understand what they are doing; it may not always make sense to me. But I have to remember that I am not them; they are not Rick. When I do not understand, it’s a good clue that I should simply stand silent. Which is why you, dear reader, are not getting more specific information on the issue. 

It is with these thoughts in mind that I have struggled to deal with her passing. As I thought about Carole, I also thought about Bob. Despite whatever other thoughts I might have regarding him, I know that I cannot imagine what it must have been like to return home each night from the hospice where she spent her last four, or five, days. To return to a house filled only with memories, a bed in which he slept too long alone, and two dogs and a cat left confused by the absence of the woman they’d helped guard, protect, and console over the last few years of her struggle.

And to have that be an ongoing state of things.

As I said, I cannot imagine. The best I can do is imagine where I’d be if I lost my Bunny Chafowitz. Hell does not come close to explaining it.

As to Bob and Carole, I remember happier times.

Happier Times with the Marcottes
That’s me, in the white shirt. My wife, Bunny Chafowitz, wears the bunny. Carole, and Bob, had bookend duty that day.

I also remember sad times.

Bob waits for his wife's surgery to end
Bob waits during one of Carole’s day-long (yes, ONE; yes, DAY-long) surgeries.

We hurt that Carole is gone. We cannot know what Bob endures. Ours is the pain of “knowing she is gone.” Bob’s is the pain of going through each day, each hour, each minute — indeed, each micro-second — without her. We knew her as a person who, while we loved her immensely, we loved  — I don’t even know what to call it: “from a distance” is not at all right — but it was not the love of someone whose life revolved around her, someone who lived with her, someone who, without her, is less whole. 

We received the news of Carole’s passing just before going to work the day she died; she had passed in the night. While I try to make a go of this whole photography thing — find my niche and build a name for myself — I am a criminal defense attorney. I barely made it through court that morning, and would not have done so but for the help of a probation officer who took the prosecutor aside and stopped her from a pointless argument over the child I was defending. I cancelled the rest of my appointments for the day.

Bunny Chafowitz and I decided that we would not be workaholics that weekend, and would take a day-trip to the coast. (Well, okay. There was still some work involved: I had to visit a client in the San Luis Obispo County Jail, and she connected to her work computer during the drive, and while she was waiting outside the jail, to get some work done.) We did, however, have a nice relaxing lunch in Morro Bay, with a lot of time to reminesce and talk about Carole.

For my part, I found that while I miss Carole very much, I have also missed Bob. That’s actually still true, in some respects, today, as I revise this post. I do not think — I cannot imagine — that it would be possible to heal the rift, or that I would want to do so, after what has happened. But that doesn’t change that there are aspects of our former friendship that I miss.

These are the same thoughts that occupied me as we drove towards Morro Bay, in hope of an opportunity to relax. We would view The Rock. It would remind us of our childhoods. We had both visited it as children, but had not seen it in at least a couple decades.

On the way there, I spotted something off to the left. “A gathering of old friends,” I thought. I almost stopped the car to take a photo.

But I did not. I was in a hurry. For what, I cannot possibly explain. But time goes by so very quickly, I always think. So it must have been for something; I am always aware that there is not enough time.

But the image, and the words that had come to my mind — “a gathering of old friends” — would not let me go.

After lunch, accompanied by a disappointing view of Morro Rock, surrounded by so many cars, and boats, and other signs of humanity that the Rock itself could scarcely be seen, and did not seem worth photographing, we got into the car to visit my client in San Luis Obispo.

But I had to get a photo of The Gathering. I was already afraid that the light would be gone. I had missed my chance.

The path back to The Gathering would add another twenty minutes — okay, it was a couple hours, because I spent so much time there — to our drive to the jail. But it had to be done.

My refusal to listen to my heart, and bite my tongue, may have cost me some more time with Carole. But this time I was done with not listening: I was done with superficiality, with hurry, with the refusal to listen to what mattered most: the people about whom I care.

The image at the top of this post is one of many of The Gathering of Old Friends, taken over a period of at least two hours. This one is the first processed. All are “HDR,” or “High Dynamic Range,” images. Several exposures were taken — in this case eleven — and then combined to give a range of tones not normally rendered in a single image. The “proper” exposure was 1/40th of a second, at ISO 200, on an f-stop of 9.0. Using Photomatix, five exposures “under” and five exposures “over” that setting were combined to the “proper” exposure.

I did a bit of “tweaking” — or, as I call it “digital darkroom work” — in Photoshop CS6. Bob and I often “discussed” the difference between “getting it right out of the camera” and what I like to call the Ansel Adams Method of Making It Spectacular in the Darkroom. So not only has this image been “tweaked,” but an entire back half of an old truck, which distracted from the image I wanted you to see, has been removed. The details would bore you more than I enjoyed them. The camera was a Canon 5D Mark III, with a 24-70 mm Canon f/2.8L lens at 70 mm. I utilized my then-brand-new 9-to-12-foot-tall seven-thousand-five-hundred-and-fifty-million pounds — okay, not really, but it feels like that! — tripod, which I probably had extended to about 6.5 feet. To focus, and to otherwise control the camera, I utilized my new CamRanger, and my iPad Air.

We are left with something more than what is “proper.”

There’s nothing more to add, except: “Carole, we miss  you more than you know.”

And to Carole’s family to whom we had also grown close — who live too far away for me to realistically visit anytime soon, as long as the United States remains insane, and TSA exists —

— maybe, just maybe, we might one day all meet again for a gathering of old friends.

Or, you could come to California. 😉

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