When Flora first told me that her mom, Carol, had recently been diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer I immediately offered to fly wherever they were going to be to photograph them together. Flora loved the idea, and reported her mom was excited, too. To be totally honest, when I offered this to Flora and envisioned what the shoot would look like, I saw Flora and Carol cooking dinner together, maybe having a class of wine, telling stories on the front porch of a log cabin, getting teary eyed, and falling asleep in peace.
Comes to find out life is not a movie and ovarian cancer is agonizing, hideous, cruel, painful, and terrifying. Anyone who has watched someone they cherish go through this will attest words are terribly insufficient to describe the ordeal.
Fast forward one month: I flew to Green Bay, Wisconsin to witness and document my dear friend, Flora, have her last moments with her mom. Our time was not spent on Golden Pond, but in a Green Bay rehab facility in the town Flora grew up in.
Carol Bowley is a smart, down to earth, low key, selfless, ego-less woman. To know her is to be her friend and you want her on your team no matter what you’re doing. She’s the type who volunteers for absolutely everything and has an endless well of energy and kindness and tenacity. She’s had the same best friends her whole life, and gathers more friends every year. She has spent her professional life running the YMCA of Green Bay and her sole goal in life is to connect and celebrate other people. I met her in the worst chapter in her life and still she introduced me to every nurse who walked in, ‘This is Tara, she’s a professional photographer. She won Best of Boston. Boston is a big city, ya know?’ Not a single nurse gave a fuck about the awards I’ve won, but the fact that the only energy she could muster was spent on bragging about me did not go unnoticed. Carol Bowley is a gem of a human being. There is not another way to see it.
Life is so beautiful. It’s so fun here, there’s so much to do, so much fun to have, so much adventure, so many friends, and so much laughter, and Carol loves it here. Carol has spent her life connecting and welcoming people, celebrating them, and making them feel loved. Simply put, Carol has spent her life selflessly and humbly spreading love. And now, in her deepest time of need the love is being returned. Her daughters, both Erin and Flora (and Erin’s husband Jeremy) have returned home to surround their mother and assure her she is not alone. Carol’s lifelong friends either visit or send videos of themselves singing to her every. single. day. Her room is plastered in cards of love and support, and she is being prayed for by people she’s never even met. Flora reads her mom all the comments they’re receiving on both social media and her CaringBridge site. They are overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity and kindness. Carol is reaping the benefits of living a life in love.
Carol, because I know this is being read to you, I love you. You are hilarious and generous and kind. Amidst your fear you were kind and loving to everyone who helped you. You know nothing but love. You have given your children and your friends and your husband more than they could have ever hoped for. We will honor and cherish you forever. You will never be alone. How could you be when you’re so deep in our hearts. YOU ARE LOVE!! I will forever be inspired by your life. I’m deeply honored that you let me photograph you and Flora in such a hard time because you know she wanted that. I will see you again, my friend. I know, I know, you’ll have black curly hair. Me, too.
It’s a huge honor of my life to show you Carol and Flora Bowley. All three of us hope you feel inspired to help one another, love each other, show kindness, and feel gratitude.
Peace to Carol and her family. Peace peace peace.