Amanda Michele O’Dell Jones, known to friends as Mandy, specializes in nature and children’s photography. Her work, which has been showcased in local galleries, can be found in the homes of many families throughout her community.
Photographs and the stories they tell have always fascinated me. As a child, I could often be found with a photo album in hand lost in the images that lay before me. Now, in the early years of adulthood, I have developed an appreciation and an interest for the process of creating timeless images that will tell my story for years to come. To some it may seem a natural happening, the progression from simply admiring the work of others to creating your own masterpieces. However, my story is not quite that simple.
Last June the 5th to be exact, my mother passed away from a rare blood disease, which she had been battling for just over 6 years. She was only 61. She was the strongest person I knew and I struggle with anger at the fact that her body wasn’t as strong as her will. My mother was my super hero, my idol, and my best friend. I had built my life around her, as I wanted to be just like her.
Here I am 5 months after her passing, realizing that I am 28 years old and have no idea who I am or where my life is heading. A wave of emotions have been surging through me and in the midst of the disaster that was once my mind, one emotion stands out above the rest: lost. Where do I belong? Who do I fit in with? Who is going to be my number one supporter now? Who is going to always be there for me, loving me unconditionally? As I was driving to work one foggy morning a family of deer crossed the road in front of me. I don’t know what it was about seeing those magnificent creatures but the question that I should have been asking myself became clear; “How are you going to redefine yourself? Don’t you think it’s about time you discovered who you really are?”
I was with my Mother that dreadful morning in hospital when the doctors shared the news that she had only days left with us on Earth. She was using every ounce of strength she had to maintain her composure and for once I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. While choking back tears I was able to ask her “What are you thinking? Do you want to talk about it?” I will never forget the expression that came across her face as she looked me in the eyes and said, “There’s still so much I want to do.”
I am sure we are all going to feel this way when our time comes but her words inspired me to do more with my life. To develop dreams of my own and do all that is within my power to achieve them. Looking back, I know that it was that moment in the hospital and her words that lead me to the beginning of my journey toward self-discovery.