Monday, March 22, 2010


That is what we are getting back to, normalcy!  Denise and her brother Gene went on a boondoggle and included scouting out some areas to take the kids at a later date.  The entire plan for today hasn't been finalized but it is either going to be her and Gene spending the night near Ontario and then Denise coming back in the morning or she will come back tonight.

So Devin and Desirae were back to school today which left Deanna and I to roam the house.  Once we finally got moving (neither one of us was very motivated in the morning) we did a test shoot with one of those 4x4 frames that Mike sent my way.  It was really cool and provided some really nice soft light in the mid day sun.

After that it was trying to fix the tailgate on the truck.  After I pulled the lift mechanism apart I found the culprit...  The plastic retaining clip broke.  So a quick trip to NAPA and a replacement clip later the lift was back in business.  The only problem now?  I broke the bezel so I had to have them order one of those too...  Hopefully tomorrow everything will be back to normal!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Something different...

Everyone started heading back today. Gene spent the rest of the weekend with us and today we had already planned to take a trip down over the hill into Hollywood to show him the Guitar Center down there. You see we've been talking about doing this for some time and in the past it always seemed to work out that we were unable to squeeze in the time to make it happen. So today we just did it.

I was really surprised how non-busy the place was and Gene got the entire Hollywood experience (including having two guys exit the same stall in the bath room - disgusting)...

Anyway it took a couple of hours to go through everything (twice) but it was really, as usual, to check the store out.  They really have an amazing vintage section and I think Gene was really blown away but that.

Denise did have the opportunity to head to the drum floor of the store and got to play around with one of the Roland kits.  The headphones were damaged so it wasn't a great opportunity but at least she did it.  Actually the funny thing is neither Gene or I played any guitars.  I figured it would help keeps the "wants" at bay!

After that we headed over to the Glendale Galleria so the kids could check out the Lego Store.  That is always fun for them and they love going there.  Fortunately there is an Apple store right next door so I headed over there and check a few things out.  On an even more positive note (hopefully) we bought Denise a new bluetooth headset so that should make a difference when she is calling folks.  Considering the cost, it was one of those Jawbone noise assassin models, it should make a great difference.  All I know, from my perspective, her current headset is a royal pain and for the most part I can't hear her...  So we'll see!  

Aaron Alexander Erhart

Today was Aaron’s funeral in Bakersfield California. It was a really beautiful service and I was touched by the singing of the Mennonites. It was truly amazing! The service was fairly long and Fred provided an outstanding testimony on his son. I can not even beginning to imagine how difficult it must of been to get up in front of those 300+ and share the way he did. There were various times throughout the service where all of us were overwhelmed with grief.

It is really difficult to belief and I’ve had a hard time trying wrap my head around the fact that Aaron is gone. He was only sixteen years old, born December 8th 1993 and passed away on Thursday March 11th 2010. We have known Aaron his entire life. We’ve seen him grow up over the years to become a really wonderful young man. He was a special friend to Devin, a cousin that would take extra time spend with him. Denise and I can remember him coming through the door for a family visit and would give us huge bear hugs. It was really hard to believe that much strength was coming from that boy.

Aaron had been ill for the last few months on what seemed to be stomach problems. Michelle and Fred tried various methods and doctors and didn’t leave Missouri until they thought they had his problems resolved. They traveled here to California to work with some fellow Mennonites who own an orange orchard in Bakersfield. As I have written in previous blog entires he did get worse and ultimately was diagnostic with hernia. It wasn’t until the surgery that the extent of the real problem came to light. He had stave IV Burkitt’s Lymphoma; a truly horrible cancer. In the first couple of weeks I don’t think anyone truly understood the magnitude of the disease and while awaiting biopsy results Michelle and Fred tried everything they could think of to help save their son.

So today, eleven days after he passed away Aaron was laid to rest. I hope everyone realized reading this blog how difficult the entire service was. At one point when everyone arrived for the grave site service Michelle was waiting at the hurst with her camera in hand. I asked Michelle if she wanted me to take pictures. She said yes, so I photographed. She really wanted me to document as much as I could and I did. Obviously the images throughout the blog are only a small selection of those images. The breaking point for me was when they were lowering Aaron into the ground and I was overcome with grief. The magnitude and reality of the situation came down upon me. Once I regained my composure I took only a handful more shots of Fred as he sprinkled earth his son’s casket and said goodbye for the last time until they meet again in heaven.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Almost everyone is here...

As I mentioned yesterday, Brad (in the photograph at left with Denise) and his wife Libby arrived last night.  This morning Brad and I made the trip to Ontario International Airport to pick up their brother Gene.  While we were gone Denise and Libby made a Costco trip and got some of the food together that we were going to bring back to Bakersfield.

It was really cool for the "guys" to do the snatch-and-grab at the airport and it was nice to just chat and catch up on the way back.

Once everyone was "home" at our house Denise and Libby finished up the cookies and such and when the kids got home from school we headed out (well, at little behind schedule) to Michelle and Fred's place in Bakersfield.  This visit also gave us the opportunity for everyone to meet Fred's parents who made the drive out from Tennessee.

The only family that hasn't actually arrived yet is their uncle Gary who's flight landed pretty late and a couple hours away so he won't even hit Bakersfield until tomorrow.

Tomorrow is Aaron's funeral and I am fully expecting to be a pretty difficult time.  Fred is actually planning to share and I cannot even imagine how difficult that would be.  I think Devin is really going to have a hard time with it as he is still really upset.

Going through Aaron's photos...

I started the long process of going through my print and digital images of Aaron tonight. I was able to find around 100 images of him throughout the years with the earlier ones being prints that I had to scan. Someone has volunteered to create a memorial board, for lack of a better term, and hopefully these images will help fill in some gaps in that project.

I think over the last few days we’ve been able to occupy our minds with the daily grind of life which has served everyone here well to keep us from dwelling on the current situation. Obviously when you are going through images and pulling all that information together it really brings everything back… I think when my brother Daren and I did a complete multi-media show it was easier because we were so focused on pulling it together that there really wasn’t much time to sit back and think about the gravity of the situation. There was also the reality that my grandmother was, well, a grandmother and had an extraordinary life. I think everyone is still having a real difficult time grappling with the fact that Aaron was only sixteen and how quickly he was taken away.

Denise’s brother Brad and his wife Libby arrived today from their very long car trip. When I asked Brad where they stopped/slept the answer was (if I remember correctly) “I slept for an hour someplace along the way”. Needless to say they are beat. Tomorrow, or well technically today, Denise’s brother Gene flies in and I’ll pick him up. When we all get back to the house then we’ll load up and head over to Michelle and Fred to spend more time together as family.

Above I generated a slideshow out of the images that I sent off for printing. I truly wish I had more images and I’m still kicking myself for not taking more over the years but at least I have what I do and Denise had a good collection of prints.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Family visit...

We headed back over to Bakersfield today to spend more time with the family.  I think everyone, especially Michelle, Fred and their children have really accepted it and are adjusting to the reality of the situation.  I think Devin is still having a hard time coping but he is getting better. He had a moment after we first got there and just the absence of Aaron really got to him.  Earlier in the day I ran across the Harley Davidson guitar pick that he had given me in December when they were staying with us around Christmas time and that was a little difficult to wrap my head around.  Again this entire situation occurred pretty rapidly.

One thing I have realized as a result of this is that I haven't taken enough photographs.  I think everyone realizes that it is something I really like to do but at times I feel like I am really putting people out so for the most part I won't haul out the gear and "force" people to sit (or stand) for a portrait.  This has really become evident as I look back at my gallery and see a lack of great photographs of Aaron...  I have some journalistic shots of him but nothing close to a studio shot.

So today I mentioned this to Denise and the idea of just packing some gear to make some shots and she thought it was a great.  So I grabbed my (new) trusty c-stand and the black backdrop that my buddy Mike Cassidy was kind enough to pass my way, along with a couple of strobes and ancillary equipment and set it up in the carport to make some shots.

None of the children really wanted to do it but after some urging from their mother (and aunt) they all agreed.  I could have (should have) done a little better job but I think the final composite worked out nice.  I REALLY wish I had an image of Aaron to include in it but as I mentioned above I don't have any.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rest in peace...

Today Denise received the telephone call that Aaron Erhart our nephew lost his fight with cancer.  Aaron, who is 16 years old, was diagnosed with Burkitt's Lymphoma a couple of weeks ago.  I was re-reading an earlier blog post and I think I have the exact dates wrong but it wasn't that long ago.  Prior to that it was undiagnosed and misdiagnosed as other problems.

Burkitt's Lymphoma is an incredibly fast cancer and by the time Michelle and Fred, Aaron's parents, knew what they were dealing with it was too late.  They admitted him to the hospital emergency room on Tuesday and he was transported down to UCLA Medical Center (I incorrectly thought it was Children's Hospital) late in the evening.  He spent one full day in the ICU at UCLA and then passed away this morning at approximately 0615 hrs.

It is really hard to believe how aggressive this cancer was and how quickly he deteriorated.  This image at the top left was captured in the beginning of January and the entire family was over here in late Jan and he looked fine.  He was having what was thought to be stomach problems but ultimately it was something a lot worse.  Later in Feb when he was getting worse the doctor/surgeon's thought he had a hernia and even the pre-op blood test didn't show anything unusual.  It wasn't until the surgery that they found out that he had cancer.

Aaron was a really great kid and it was fun to have him around.  He always was in a good mood and he would have a blast when he came over playing with Devin, playing with the guitars and just hanging out.  It is really hard to comprehend what has happened.

We pulled Devin and Desirae out of school today to break the news to them and then to travel back over to Bakersfield to let the family grieve together.  Sometimes I really think it is easier when it is family because there is just a different dynamic.  As we feared Devin was devastated by the news and had a hard time with it.  I think it really helped him to be around his other cousins.

I'm still in a state of shock and all I can think right now is Aaron you will be missed!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Reading and c-stands

I've been doing some web work for a friend of from work and he's offered "trade" in the form of c-stands.  So today I took delivery of a brand-spanking-new Matthews C-Stand with a 40" arm and I have to say this thing is freaking amazing.  This thing makes regular light stands look like a real joke!

Well, Devin has been reading a book and offer to let me take some photographs of him with this new configuration.  He has really gotten into reading lately and he just about to finish Ice Fire by Chris D'lacey.

The picture on the right is from his recurring Christmas present from Lego.  Every month or so he receives a package with a new Lego kit and this month it was a ATV.  It was actually pretty cool.

Sunday, March 07, 2010


This has been a pretty intense weekend.  Yesterday we headed over to Bakersfield to visit Michelle's family and to see Aaron.  He is really having a ruff time of it and it is truly amazing to think the person that was in the living room with us was the same boy dragging Devin around on January 2nd and again on the 24th playing guitar and just hanging out.  He is incredibly weak and the cancer is really fighting with him.  His parents, Michelle and Fred, are really running themselves into the ground doing everything they can to try and help make him stronger to put him in a situation to fight this cancer.

Our kids did really well although Devin did get a bit emotional after we left.  I don't think he really expected Aaron to be a sick as he really is.  Devin has always had a very special bond with Aaron and told him yesterday that he is "awesome and cool".

Hopefully they can catch a break on this and Aaron can start responding positively to everything they are trying.  Hopefully they will get with an oncologist soon to get a baseline on where he is and how he is progressing.

I wondering around the property and spend more time than I realized making photographs of dandelions.  I found the one above in a little outgrow and I thought it was appropriate to my mood and the situation.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The week is over...

This is been a really long tuff week for a bunch of different reasons but bottom line, the week is over and it's time to think about the weekend!  Tomorrow we are heading to Bakersfield to visit Michelle and her family with a focus on see Aaron and spending some time with him.  The kids, and Devin specifically, are really looking forward to going over there tomorrow.  I am a little worried about this trip and I am concerned about how Devin is going to deal with everything.

Well more to come and we'll see what happens

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Well, this has been a pressure filled couple of weeks cumulating to today.  Aaron who is Michelle's oldest son of 16 years hasn't been feeling well for a while.  He has had persistent eating problems and such but he has up and down days.  So bottom line it didn't appear too serious.  However toward the end of January it appeared to be getting significantly worse and they took him to a doctor who diagnosed him with a hernia and schedule a surgery to fix the problem.  Everyone felt much better that the source of the problem was identified and a good plan was set into motion to achieve that goal.  So on Friday, January 22, the surgery was scheduled and performed.  The only problem, he didn't have a hernia.  It was something much worse.  Basically the surgeon found a bunch of tumors, took a biopsy, and did what he could.

So now everyone has been in a waiting game to get the results back.  Now the surgeon did, unexpectedly in my opinion, told them he had cancer.  Yesterday they finally had the appointment with the results and it was confirmed but with results.

So, what does all this mean?  I'm not really sure.  They should talk to an oncologist soonish and hopefully come up with a good treatment plan.  The problem right now is Aaron is incredible week and nearly unable to eat.  Michelle and Fred are doing everything they can think of to try to help him get his strength up as they work through the medical system to really figure out what the options and plans really are.  Denise drove up today and met with her sister and had the chance to see Aaron.

Hopefully we will hear more soon...