I met Kathy on a cold November night. I had an assignment to photograph the U.S. Air Force enlisted men and women from Nellis Air Force Base that were assisting with a weekly feeding of the homeless in a rather rough part of town. I arrived early, long before the event started due to wrong information and decided to get coffee and come back. I wasn’t too eager to return because not only was I tired and cranky, but I questioned my safety in the area. The sun had just gone down. I had a lot of camera gear.
Upon returning an hour and a half later, the ruined and desperate neighborhood took on a entire different life. People busied themselves with containers of steaming food and boxes of blankets. About 75 homeless and needy people stood in line waiting for the food serving to begin. Volunteers greeted each other as well as those waiting with hugs and smiles equally. The community blended together for another Monday night on G Street. Their operation was seamless, and I was the outsider.
After photographing military personnel, community volunteers, those in need and even taking a photograph with a friendly and outgoing homeless man (who also proposed to me and called me “blonde girl” as he chased after me), the reporter and I were urged by a volunteer to meet Kathy.
Kathy was sitting in her wheelchair under a streetlight off to the side of the food line. Her lean limbs were bundled and a medical mask was around her mouth. Fresh vomit lay on the ground next to her wheelchair where she had tried to eat and failed. The volunteer hugged Kathy and gave her some gentle pats. Kathy informed us that she had bone cancer and that her time on Earth was short, but that she was okay.
“My Lord has done me good,” She said.
Kathy told us to lean in close as she sang several sweet verses of a bible hymn that I did not know. She spoke ever so soft but with confidence and humility as she asked for our hands and started a prayer. I succumbed to the moment and fought back my emotions. I did not want Kathy to see my eyes watering. I looked over and noticed that the reporter was equally moved.
I left soon after my encounter with Kathy. I was deflated from the evening. There was nothing I could do for Kathy. I could not make her better or take her home with me. I could not pay for her medicines that she could not afford–yet I wanted to. I drove home, and my heart was sad.
I am not a doctor who heals children. I am not in the military fighting for my country. I do not have a momentous job. All I can hope to do is tell one person’s story through my photographs. And I know on that Monday evening, I did my job. I was there for Kathy, even if it was just for several moments on a busy and cold day when all I wanted to do was go home and crawl into bed. I was there to listen, and I’m here today to tell her story. I will forever have our moment together and this photo.
All of my best wishes to you, Kathy. Rest easy tonight.