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.
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Comments
lisa says:

these images are stunning. you've done an amazing job capturing the tenderness, love, strength,joy, pain and a thousand other emotions in this room. in these hearts. in these lives. such important times to document. for carol and flora and everyone who loves them. for all of us. beautiful complex life.

(05.03.15 @ 06:28 AM)
Sarah Banks says:

Incredibly moving and brave for all concerned. My thoughts are with you. xxx

(05.03.15 @ 06:34 AM)
Line Bank says:

Ohhhh My tears are dripping down on my iPad, those pictures tell a beautiful story. Thank you for letting us in.. Line

(05.03.15 @ 07:04 AM)
Yvette Lyons says:

Touching, beautiful and heart wrenching. My prayers are continually with you all. My mom is 87 years old and living with me as her care-giver. Your story confirms to me the importance of our whole hearted presence and giving of love and support to the one's we love while we are together. Love to you Carol and Flora, Yvette

(05.03.15 @ 07:18 AM)
Lisa says:

Beautiful. Raw. I'm overcome with emotion (all sorts) from viewing the pictures and reading Carols story. Love and peace.

(05.03.15 @ 07:27 AM)
Lisa says:

Beautiful. Raw. I'm overcome with emotion (all sorts) from viewing the pictures and reading Carols story. Such a touching relationship between mother and daughter. Love and peace.

(05.03.15 @ 07:27 AM)
Shaun says:

These pictures tell an incredible story of love. Thanks so much for sharing this, my prayers are with you both.

(05.03.15 @ 07:33 AM)
Monika Welch says:

I am so humbled and so touched to see these photos. My chin quivers and big fat tears falling ...as i witness this tenderness between mother and daughter. You are an amazing photographer lady! You have captured a truly special journey here. I will ring my mother tomorrow and hold on to every word she says. Thankyou Tara, Carol and Flora for sharing your most private moments. Love and peace to you all.

(05.03.15 @ 07:59 AM)
Rita Ball says:

You have captured for our eyes, love between a daughter and her mom. The pain is hard to see, but the beauty shines through. Thank you for sharing Carol's hardest part of her journey.

(05.03.15 @ 08:02 AM)
Sherry Dooley says:

Wow - such bittersweet moments shared. My heart hurts...

(05.03.15 @ 09:45 AM)
Larissa Amato says:

Throughout Flora's teachings in her bloom true course, she reminds us to express ourselves in the moment we are in...in the moment our hearts are in. Your photography captures these moments. There is a beginning and ending to every painting we do and as well as our journey as a human being. The raw emotions that play with our hearts transform the cells in our body. We are always left with hope and the gifts of love. Looking at your pictures of newborns being held, nurtured, and softly touched... and scrolling to see Carol, we are reminded that life is a continuous circle of blooming love. You have a special eye to capture the emotion behind the lens as well as the story. Sending much peace to Flora, Carol and her family. They are planting a garden together filled with, history, spirit, heartache, love, roots, beauty, growth, light and hope. Some of the most beautiful gardens are the ones that bloom together.

(05.03.15 @ 09:51 AM)
Joanna Howarth says:

So teary. So moved. So inspired by how love and strength come through in the toughest of moments in life. Sending so much love and warmth to Carol, Flora, you and all the close family and friends surrounding and cherishing Carol right now.

(05.03.15 @ 10:08 AM)
Maz Hawes says:

Tara love, these are incredible. What a gift you have. These images are so raw and real and yet tender and unobtrusive. Wishing much love to Flora and Carol and to you too of course. Thank god there are people like you all in the world x

(05.03.15 @ 10:33 AM)
gloria says:

Thank you for sharing something so private and beautiful . I have no words just a feeling of awe in seeing a mother and daughters brave love. May God bestow all of his blessings on these blessed souls.

(05.03.15 @ 10:43 AM)
Briana says:

I barely have words. Too much snot and tears to type anyway. Love, peace, bleessings, and a huge thank you to all of you. Life is so precious.

(05.03.15 @ 11:19 AM)
Alesia Regan-Hughes says:

Tears are streaming down my face, as I scroll through these raw, authentic loved-filled images,.... you have captured hallowed moments here. What an incredibly kind and beautiful act of love on your part. Thank you for sharing this with all of us... this is real life.

(05.03.15 @ 12:10 PM)
Irene Eaves says:

Celebrating all three of you IN LOVE. I am humbled by your magnificent vulnerability and willingness to share yourselves. I am remembering the journey of cancer I went through with my own mother and would like to think she felt supported and loved by me..as much as these photographs reveal. The intense focus of love is far reaching and the impact we can not even comprehend. The Power of Love is seen here and felt by me so I send the power back to you Carol, Flora and Tara.

(05.03.15 @ 01:23 PM)
Jo says:

Tara, these images are so moving and heartbreaking - I admire you so much for being able to document this for Flora and I thank you for the honour of being able to *meet* Carol and Flora and share this time with them. Much love and peace to you all. xxx

(05.03.15 @ 01:30 PM)
Tina Tierson says:

Thank you, the three of you for sharing this amazing love between mother and daughter. The pictures are real and beautiful. Sending so much love and white light to surround everyone involved with this lovely woman's life. Carol, you are the epitome of the meaning and purpose of life - love. Thank you Carol, Flora, and Tara.

(05.03.15 @ 06:40 PM)
jackie says:

Tara....you simply are a love force! Your raw and genuine nature is your lens. Thank you for sharing and being a wonderful human being! Peace to you and Flora! xoxo

(05.04.15 @ 11:34 AM)
Lindsey says:

What a gift you have, that image of her arm grabbing her daughters just ruined me. Sending all of you prayers of love, keep shining your light.

(05.07.15 @ 12:17 PM)
Nolwenn says:

You have me in tears. This is such a beautiful offering for Flora, something to cherish.
You are a special gem, Tara.

(05.26.15 @ 03:20 PM)
Robin says:

Wow. So honest, vulnerable, and human. My heart hurts feeling even a drop of what I imagine they were feeling in these moments. You did a great job capturing these moments & reminding us that life is not a like a movie, but something infinitely more precious.

(05.26.15 @ 03:36 PM)
Orly says:

Can't stop crying Tarra...your words, your images, the bond revealed here between Flora and her mom, their respective endless beauty....so many tears, very few words...you are one special woman love!!!

(05.26.15 @ 04:55 PM)
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(06.09.15 @ 05:30 PM)
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(06.09.15 @ 05:31 PM)
Backer McKenzie says:

Tara, you are more than just a great photographer. You are a very warm and beautiful person, and people trust you. These are very intimate moments. Love Backer.

(07.10.15 @ 05:06 PM)
Billye says:

Gorgeous work, Tara. Really moving. You're making it hard to work through tears

(07.21.15 @ 02:59 PM)
Sass says:

Am convinced once again that there is only LOVE. Either it' s aberration or missing or its Presence. There is nothing else worth discussing.!!
the Courage, Beauty and Love that the three of you have shared is breath-taking...Thank you so very much.
May Mama B rest in peace.. May the two remaining warriors find respite, comfort and strength.
My cup runnerth over this day...
Peace~

(07.10.16 @ 07:56 AM)