I’m excited to share with you a story about two remarkable women, Patricia and Marilena. Their friendship is truly something special, and I had the privilege of capturing their essence through my lens as part of my “40 over 40” project.
These two amazing ladies share a bond that goes back to their school days. Like most of us, they lost touch with their schoolmates as life led them down different paths. But fate had something extraordinary in store for them. Patricia and Marilena reconnected unexpectedly in recent years, and it was all thanks to their children, who were born with disabilities.
Now, you might think that families with children facing such challenges would have a cloud of gloom hanging over them. It’s a common misconception, and I’d like to address the elephant in the room. Many of us tend to associate disabilities with a sense of sadness or pity, assuming that life must be overwhelmingly difficult for these families.
But let me share a personal story that challenges this perspective. My own aunt, whom we affectionately call “Fat Aunt” (a nickname she’s had since we were toddlers), had polio from a young age, leaving her unable to walk without crutches or a wheelchair. Despite her physical challenges, she is the most positive and vibrant person I know.
Fat Aunt’s indomitable spirit shines through in everything she does. She never lets her disability define her or limit her zest for life. I still remember the day she got her first electric wheelchair with a joystick, and I had to hurry to keep up with her. She joked about me being too slow, and it was a testament to her resilience.
Her ability to communicate and connect with people surpasses any limitations most of us have. When she needs to use the elevator in a metro station, she fearlessly communicates with others who may not be as understanding. She’ll politely say, “Sorry, I need to take this,” because she has no other option.
However, here’s where her assertiveness shines: if she notices a parent with a stroller that also needs the elevator, she’ll exchange a meaningful glance and communicate with them too. Her approach is remarkable. If she’s in a hurry, she’ll politely express her urgency, and if not, she’ll graciously let others go ahead, saying, “Don’t worry; you can go first. I’m not in a hurry; I’ll wait for the next one.”
Her ability to navigate life with such grace and assertiveness has always been something I deeply admire. She’s strong, independent, and knows how to get what she needs without compromise.
This brings me back to Patricia and Marilena, the two incredible women I had the privilege of photographing. Their story is a different perspective on parenting children with disabilities. When I asked them how they cope on those tough days when they might feel down or lacking in energy, their response left me dumbfounded. They haven’t experienced those feelings. For them, every day is filled with happiness, joy, and fulfillment because of their children.
In a world where we often assume that parents of children with disabilities must carry an extra burden, Patricia and Marilena paint a different picture. They find boundless happiness and fulfillment in their children. Far from dwelling on their children’s disabilities, they simply acknowledge the conditions and move forward with positivity and love.
They don’t label their children as “disabled” or “challenged.” Instead, they use straightforward terms to describe their children’s conditions. Their honesty and acceptance struck a chord with me, reminding me of the importance of embracing reality as it is.
What’s truly exceptional about Patricia and Marilena is the depth of their friendship. They’ve known each other for years, and their friendship rekindled when they reconnected over their shared experiences with children who have disabilities. It’s a friendship built on unconditional love and support.
I’ve often seen friendships that come with conditions, where we expect something in return. But Patricia and Marilena’s friendship is unique. They’re there for each other because they genuinely want to be. It’s selflessness at its finest. They support each other without judgment, providing a safe space where they can be their true selves.
Their understanding of each other’s needs is remarkable. They can sense what the other requires instinctively, honed by years of motherhood and their unique journeys. Their ability to read people, especially their children, sets them apart. They’ve learned to communicate in ways that go beyond words, connecting on a deeper level.
As a photographer, I have the privilege of witnessing people in vulnerable moments, like when they step out of their comfort zones during a photoshoot. Patricia and Marilena faced the challenge of being professionally photographed in a studio for the first time. Imagine sitting in front of a camera for an hour—it’s an intimidating and vulnerable experience.
However, with each other’s unwavering support, they embraced the challenge. They encouraged and uplifted one another, creating an atmosphere devoid of judgment. They embodied the essence of true friendship—unconditional love and support.
Their journey during the photoshoot revealed their resilience and adaptability. It allowed me to gain insights into how people react when pushed out of their comfort zones. As an observer and storyteller, these moments provide a unique window into the human spirit.
Patricia and Marilena’s friendship serves as a beautiful reminder that true connections are built on understanding, support, and selflessness. It’s not about what we can gain from a relationship but how we can uplift and empower one another.
In Patricia and Marilena, I see the embodiment of unconditional love. Their story is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the beauty of friendship. Witnessing their journey has been a privilege, and it’s stories like these that inspire me to continue sharing the narratives of amazing individuals.
Stay tuned for more stories from my “40 over 40” project, where we celebrate the beauty, wisdom, and strength of women over 40.
Until next time,