This past weekend Brandon I went back home to South Carolina to see his little brother Henry graduate from the US Marine Corp Basic Training in Parris Island, SC. Parris Island has so many significant memories for me. It’s where I completed my first triathlon where my mom, my dad and sister watched. It’s where my dad did his Marine Basic Training at and set the scene for so many stories I heard of his adventures growing up. It’s also the place where Brandon completed his first triathlon and where him and I were at the same place, at the same time, for the first time ever. Little did we know that many events would have to pass before we formally met.
One of those events being the passing of my dad. My dad passed away on July 9, 2015 from lung cancer. My dad was the best man I knew and his passing has shifted my entire life. My dad was a Marine. He was a daddy of two. A husband. A carpenter. A hunter. A teacher. And a best friend to many. I wasn’t even able to see what an amazing man Tony Bone truly was until his passing. I met strangers who introduced themselves to me who embraced me in bear hugs. I had men thank me for my dad paying their phone bills for years, something I nor my family was aware of. I had young, proud me come to me crying, sharing how grateful they were that my dad gave them a job, picked them up for work everyday and then brought them home. I was beyond grateful for each man my dad sent me like this. But I knew they didn’t get to see the best of my dad. I did. He was a great man. He was a better father.
The Seay LeBlanc Massaro Stimac Peppers Crowd
Two months after my dad passing, I met Brandon. Shortly after, I met his large family. A family made up of divorce. Of separation. And of more love than I’ve ever seen. “Your mom and step mom do things together??” were the type of questions I asked A LOT at the beginning. And honestly, this family was very weird to me at first. They all….got along. And even more strange, they all brought me in with no questions asked. I was an honorary member of this extended family over night. It was 1,000% a gift from God.
Henry is Brandon’s little brother. His hobbies include watching war movies, being as loyal as tomorrow and calling me Rachel. Don’t ask. After Henry became a Marine, the family quickly scattered down from our bleacher seats to go greet him for the first time in four months. I scattered to get my camera ready. Henry hugged everyone and didn’t really pay me attention. I thought “meh. #lifeofaphotographer right?”. Brandon then took my camera and told me to go hug him. Instead Henry stopped me and started to speak. Everyone gathered around and it was one of those rare moments in life when you think “Oh my gosh. Something’s happening! Dance mob?!“. Henry began to tell me about brotherhood and how Marines carry on one another. Tears. Henry took off his hat, took out a laminated photo of my dad on his graduation day and told me he carried dad with him across the parade deck one last time. Sobs.
Full disclosure. I did not deserve this amount of attention on Henry’s big day. The plan was to show up, love on Henry, see the family and go home. This was Henry’s weekend. So to receive this, it was truly an honor. It brought my dad into my life again. It introduced my dad to this big, crazy extended family. It was the most amazing thing.
Henry, thank you for getting to know my dad. Thank you for colliding my past with my future. I love you, brother.