Happy Birthday Sarah Elizabeth Dwyer

Once upon a time there was a girl named Sarah Elizabeth. She lived in a magical kingdom, under a large oak tree, in an old cottage with green shutters and a fireplace. She was smart, funny, kind, and truly loved.

Today is Sarah's birthday. She would have been 39 years old. She would have danced and eaten cake. I've been wanting to write about her since she passed away last August, but I just couldn't until now. And really, what better way to celebrate her life than on her birthday. 

I don't normally write much. Words have never been my thing, so here we go. I remember sitting with her on the bed picking out sundresses online. She had found the perfect sundress and she ordered it immediately and even got to wear it once down at the Staunton Farmers Market last spring. She loved clothes and fashion. One thing I am most sad about is that Sarah won't see her fairy goddaughter, Chloë, grow up. (Sarah decided that she was to be Chloë’s Fairy Godmother. I think it’s fantastic. Every girl should have one.) I'm so glad that Chloë did get to have a relationship with Sarah. She remembers her and we talk about her often and for that I am grateful.

A few years back the doctors told Sarah that she only had about 3 months to live. That was the first time that I cried in front of her. My body shook. I couldn't help it. I bawled. I held onto her like a child and she hugged me back and we stood there in peaceful silence. I am so incredibly lucky to have had her as my friend, my confidant. She has taught me lessons and she has been there through the good times and hard times. She will always be with me. Always. I realize now that I haven't really lost her. I have gained something more. Something wonderful. Her laugh still follows me. I see her sometimes in other people and moments throughout the day. Her objects speckle our home and make me smile when I see them. Whenever I see a blue butterfly it makes me smile.

Sarah had a wicked (and very dirty sense) of humor. She told the best stories and if you needed someone to lift you up, you would give her a ring. I still sometimes reach for the phone to call her. I kept voicemails that she left me and I still listen to them on occasion just to hear her voice. She was always one to rally and make you feel better. She could get very fired up about things. About life. She has taught me that you must LIVE. Everyday. 

Now, Sarah was also a little OCD which could drive a person a crazy. I remember one time when we lived together and she had lovingly rearranged the entire kitchen. I couldn’t find anything. I was trying to make a cake for my husbands birthday and nothing was where it normally was. I was furious. Sarah kept showing me around the kitchen, so proud that everything was in (HER) order. I did manage to get the cake baked that night without any casualties. In time we moved things around so that we both were happy and I have even adopted some of her quirky placements because, well, they worked! That’s the thing, she always had a method. She had a method for the end of her life as well. To make it hers. To make it Sarah.

Sarah and I used to joke that we must have been twins in a past life. There were so many similarities about us. We share the same initials, SEP. Sarah Elizabeth Pharis (now Dwyer) and Sera Elizabeth Petras. Pharis means stoneworker and Petras means stone. I like to think that we were siblings, or maybe even married in a past life! I hope to see her in the next. May our adventure continue in another time. 

I leave you with this. Today, go outside, and take off your shoes. Feel the grass between your toes and the sun on your face. Lift up your eyes and look at the clouds. My daughter, Chloë, said the most beautiful thing when Sarah passed away. She said that Sarah is a happy, healthy puffy cloud up in the sky now. I like to think so, too.I hope that you all remember her love end her incredible energy that she shared with so many people. 

Happy Birthday my beautiful friend. I miss you everyday. Love infinity squared. I hope you are dancing with Bowie and eating an entire cake today decorated with tiny blue butterlies.

Please consider donating to the Ocular Melanoma Foundation 

Javier | Naturalization Ceremony | The Frontier Culture Museum, Staunton, VA

It's not everyday that someone becomes a citizen. This is something very close to me because my father is originally from Germany, so when a dear friend asked me to photograph his partners naturalization ceremony, I was thrilled! Javier is from Argentina and now is also a citizen of the United States of America!  It was such a beautiful ceremony with so many faces in the crowd. Thank you Javier and Nicky, it was an honor to be the photographer to capture this day!

Tree Huntin' | West Hill Tree Farm, Staunton, VA

Our family isn't the norm when it comes to Christmas trees. My husband and I love our three little palm trees that we have put up since we've been married and I don't expect that to change anytime soon. However, I do love going to the Christmas tree farms! When our friends said they were going we jumped at the opportunity to go help pick out their tree! Chloë loved it because she could run in the fields and even found a little tree house that she would have stayed in all day if we had let her. Liz had to smell the trees to make sure they had just the right Christmas tree scent! We all had a great time today out at West Hill Tree Farm!