Loss affects us all.” | Photo taken by Hector Herrera during his grandmother’s funeral service in 2015.
Our story began on November 1, 2006. I recall it so clearly. I remember the previous day was Halloween and my mother’s family was gathering at my grandparents’ house. I had a video shoot for a local entertainment company that night but decided to stop by to spend some time with them first. I recall sitting in the dining room with my mom, grandmother, tia (aunt) and cousins. My grandmother looked so tired and hadn’t felt one hundred percent in a few months. For the last few years, she had been on dialysis and her body wasn’t responding well to the treatment anymore. She had felt more tired than normal the last couple of weeks, yet she always made an effort to spend time with the family while everyone was at her house. After staying there for a short while, I left for the video shoot and said my goodbyes. It’s sad. I didn’t know it then but that would be the last time I ever saw my grandmother as the woman I had known her to be my whole life.
The next day, while working on the video footage I recorded the night before, I received a call from my mother. She told me that my grandmother had suffered a heart attack during her dialysis treatment, she was in the hospital and the outlook wasn’t good.
I stopped everything, hopped in my truck and flew down the freeway towards downtown. Everything was so uncertain and the only thing on my mind was to get there as soon as I could. As I entered the emergency area, I remember looking to my left and right and the whole waiting area was filled with my relatives.
“It’s so very hard. No matter how much you see it coming, it’s still so very hard on you emotionally and mentally when the final moments of a loved one’s life start to play out. Even now, sitting here, thinking about it; I can feel those emotions in my chest.”
My grandmother clung to life for two days but her body was slowly fading. I remember the doctor informing my grandfather about the status of her life support and my grandfather saying he didn’t want to keep her in pain. The doctor told my grandpa that wasn’t a decision he would have to make because life support couldn’t help her any longer. So, everyone was allowed to visit her one last time and then the hospital removed her life support. Not very long after, she passed away on Friday, November 3, 2006.
“When someone passes away, I think we all kind of go into this auto mode and just do what we know how to do. For some, that’s planning and organizing, for others, it might be picking out clothes, and for others, it may even be calling relatives to inform them of funeral and memorial details. For me, I’m a creative and media person; I naturally want to honor my loved one by creating photo slideshows, funeral programs, and other memorial works.”
I immediately went to work on creating a photo slideshow (memorial slideshow) for my grandmother’s funeral service. It was bittersweet creating her photo slideshow. I had mixed emotions of joy and grief while reliving all these memories in pictures. Grandma’s photo slideshow was the largest slideshow I ever created, it was over 300 pictures and ran for about 30 minutes.
The next day, while working on her slideshow (Saturday), I received a call from my father at around 2:00 PM. I thought he called to express his condolences for the loss of my grandmother. Yet, he told me to stop everything I was doing and come to my grandmother’s house (his mother). He said my cousin was shot overnight and he didn’t know any more details but the family was asking everyone to meet at grandma’s house for more info.
When I turned down my grandmother’s street, I remember the whole block was filled with cars belonging to my relatives. And ss I walked up, I could see cousins outside crying and looking distraught. I was already feeling emotional because of my mom’s mom, now my other side of the family was dealing with their own tragedy. I walked in and there were just tears everywhere. I can’t remember who told us but I do remember someone saying that my cousin had passed away from a car accident and not a shooting like was first reported. That was tough because he was so young and had so much life in front of him.
I soon found myself creating two photo slideshows for both sides of my family. It was a bit overwhelming at first because I was so emotionally attached to both projects. Also, I didn’t have any experience working in the funeral or memorial service industry. And while photo slideshows are a form of video production, my background at the time was producing videos for film and television. Yet, I was able to complete both photo slideshows in time for the memorial services.
A few days after the services, I received a call from one of the funeral home owners. He inquired about photo slideshow services because he had a family that wanted one produced. I never thought of offering photo slideshows as a service but I agreed to help him out. I went to the funeral home and met with the family, went over the types of music they wanted, gathered their pictures and offered my condolences. The next day, I was there presenting the photo slideshow for the family. I thought it would feel strange working with the bereaved, yet I actually loved helping the family out. I was in their exact position a few days prior and knew what they were going through. The family was so very gracious for the video and it felt great inside to help them during such a tragic time. After that, I began to help other funeral homes and my passion for helping families during their time of loss continued to grow.
Now, my desire is to help even more families that are beyond my local reach. I want to provide all families with the same care and compassion for their loved one’s tribute that I do for my own family. I want to use my all experience and skills to provide families with unique and personalized tributes that truly honor the spirit of their loved ones.