I'm from a small beach town in New England called Marshfield.  It's a workin' man's town surrounded by wealthier, fancier towns, and we like it that way.  We hear that being the scrappy underdog builds character, and our identity is in our grit and our work ethic. 

And fuck those rich kids. ;) 

I'm not sure if this is the case in every small town, but  everyone I grew up with I consider, in some form or another, like family.  I've known them for so long, I love them so much, we've laughed so hard together, cried even harder, and ran from the cops so much that it's automatic family status whether we like it or not.  

One of my first male friends I can remember having is Chris Sheehan.  We met in the third grade and our friendship has endured.  Chris is smart, hilarious, and loyal, and I love this kid like a brother.  By some sort of small town mathematics, since I consider Chris a brother I consider his siblings like my family.   I am not alone in my personal theory of relativity, and thousands of people feel connected to the Sheehan/Shaw family through a sibling, a parent, a cousin, or an uncle.  The entire town calls Chris' dad Chief.  Which only struck me as odd when my boyfriend asked why I kept calling him that.  Aggravated I answered, 'because that's his name.' 

So, when Chris' brother,  Dan, and his wife, Natalie, also a Marshfield native, were suffering, Marshfield stepped up in a mighty way. 
 
Natalie and Dan's four year old son, Danny, has brain cancer.  It presented itself through bad headaches and nausea, and a trip to the doctor revealed every parent's living nightmare.  When I finally found out through Facebook, I reached out to Natalie and offered the only trick I have: photographs of their family.  She accepted my offer, and two days later I was ringing their doorbell on a Sunday morning in January. 

Little Danny was there at the front door to greet me with a smiley-face scar on his skull in his red hair, and long blonde eyelashes framing his beautiful blue eyes. He's as sweet and gentle as you can imagine a 4-year-old boy to be.  He's helpful and playful and kind, and he's jaw-droppingly adorable and perfect in every way possible.  I asked if he had his own bedroom, and the next thing I knew he asked me to follow him upstairs.  The ol' Sheehan trick, I joked with him.  He smiled.  He sat on his larger than life stuffed moose name Mortimer, and told me his 'fwiend gave it to me to make me feew beddah.'  I wish I lived in a village full of only Dannys. 
Soon after, cars started lining their street, and it was some sort of Sheehan/Shaw reunion in the backyard. Twenty or so relatives of Danny's showed up to stand beside him in photographs.  It was fucking beautiful, and their family showed their hearts that day.  What a loving crew. 

From Natalie and Dan's larger (not actually) family, the overwhelming love and support played out over social media.  Over $50K was raised in four days with a Go Fund Me page called The Danny Fund.  And tens of thousands of people visualized and hoped and prayed to a god they probably haven't talked to in while to save Danny. Complete strangers chanted in Danny's name in my yoga classes, and photo printers donated prints and canvas to the family.  A yoga student of mine named Mike, a total stranger to the Sheehan family, sat and breathed in Danny's suffering and exhaled peace and health.  And from the looks of Facebook, believe me when I say our entire town is on it's knees for Danny, Natalie, and Dan.  
Danny is tough. He's sweet and gentle, but he's tough.   Yesterday (February 7th, 2017) Little Danny had an operation at Children's Hospital here in Boston to insert a chemo port and get a spinal tap to try to find out more about his tumor.  Very soon he will start an intensive chemo and radiation treatment.  And in ten years Marshfield High School will have to brace itself for another hell raisin', heart breakin' Sheehan boy named Danny.  And that's all there is to it. 

Danny has a road ahead of him that he does not deserve.  He is too young to hold this burden, and everyone who loves him, or has ever loved anyone in their life, is surrounding him ready to do whatever they can.  Danny is bringing out the very best in people, the very essence of our being, and reminding us what it is to be human: raw and scared, hopeful and defiant, loyal and generous. To be pure love.   I am confident that Danny will receive the miracle we are all praying for, and he will continue to remind us that there is nothing here on earth worth doing except loving each other.  

Danny, Natalie, and Dan, breathe deeply, have faith, know God, and love madly.  You have thousands and thousands of people praying for you.  Feel that every second of the day. 

love.
tara
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(02.22.17 @ 03:37 AM)
ruth phelan says:

TARA, THANK YOU FOR SHOWING YOUR BEAUTIFUL PICTURES OF DANNY. GREAT JOB! WHAT A WONDERFUL WAY TO EXPRESS YOUR LOVE FOR THE SHEEHAN AND SHAW FAMILY. ONCE AGAIN, THANK YOU VERY MUCH, RUTH PHELAN. (CHUCK SPENCER'S MOM)

(02.26.17 @ 06:03 AM)
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They don't make 'em much cooler or more creative than Miss Em Falconbridge, that's for sure.  I met Em at The Squam Art Workshop and was immediately deep in friend love.  So, when she told me that she was being featured in the magazine for her essential oil company, Doterra, and needed to be photographed, I was all over it.  She lives in what looks like a faux Christmas village in New Hampshire called Harrisville with her wonderful husband and three kids.  Her kids are Ivy, Yindi, and Banjo, and her sewing and essential oil studio is in an old yarn making mill, and her second child, Yindi, hangs off the silks that are draped from the ceiling.  Her goats live between their hot tub and the zip line that crosses their land. Everyone in the family has an effortless style and talent and it was a family photographers *DREAM* to be able to photograph them.  They are truly a beautiful family.  Thank you for trusting me with this, Em.  I love you guys!
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Don't worry nothin bout Mari because she is killing the cute game over in Cambridge.  I have photographed her mom and dad since their engagement and I count myself incredibly lucky to watch this family grow.  HERE is a look into the week Mari was born.   Thank you so much to Jimmy and Anna for putting so much trust in me.  THANK YOU!
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12.15.16
Families

Fourteen years after a brain surgery called Deep Brain Stimulation  and 24 years after her diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease, my mom is still here on earth with us.  Which is a result of an incredibly strong heart muscle, Western medicine, some Girl From New Hampshire grit, and a genuine, deeply rooted lack of suffering.  In spite of everything my mom could suffer about, my mother does not suffer.  Suffering, she has inadvertently taught everyone around her, is a choice.   Every day she gets up and she is inspired and motivated to accomplish any and all daily tasks.  She lives in a nursing home among dedicated, incredible staff, and she attends crafts, bingo, trivia, happy hour (BYO chardonnay!), and choga (which if ya don't know, now ya know: is chair yoga)!  My mom can barely open her eyes, cannot use her legs at all, and can use her arms less every year, but she does not even mention it.

And this is my MOM!!  This is who I'm from! With all the pain and all the tears and all the anger, I feel like the luckiest person in the world! And everyone who works with her at the nursing home feels the same way.   Watching someone who is motivated and inspired by her challenges, not defeated by them, is the greatest gift anyone could give this world.

Over the 24 years of watching my mom become trapped in her own body I have been through many stages of sadness, anger, and grief myself.  A few years ago, taking a page from my mom's Do Not Suffer book, I had an idea how to get us back into the Mother Daughter Creative Duo we once were.  I started to bring my camera and tripod into her nursing home and photographing the two of us together.  She tried her hardest to open her eyes to look right at the camera like I asked her to, and she tried hard to make her face smile because when she's working alongside me creatively she's feeling her very best.  I could tell she knew the pain and love and hardship I was trying to convey in the photographs, and like a soldier she became the subject of those photographs.   My dad even posed for one with his prosthetic leg beside him.  My parents are brave.

I don't want anyone to feel bad when they look at these photographs.  I want you to see strength and love, grit and family, loyalty and life.   This is what life looks like, too, sometimes.  Right there alongside the babies and the weddings and the young families.   And when it's all over, it was all beautiful, it was all perfect, and all we'll see is love.

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Naomi Raiselle says:

Just beautiful. Reminds me of the ten years I spent taking care of my dad. Blasted my heart wide open. Thanks for sharing.❤️

(01.03.17 @ 10:43 PM)
Briana says:

Oh, Tara! These photos are fucking brilliant. I imagine it took awhile for you to get to that place of being able to bring your camera into the nursing home like this. This is so personal, and at least for me, it's often a real challenge to mix the real life stuff with what I Iove to create. Thank you deeply for sharing this story about your mom and her amazing attitude about life, despite all that she faces on a daily basis. This is truly inspiring on so many levels. Blessing and Peace to you and your parents. Thank you for this post. -Briana

(01.04.17 @ 06:29 AM)
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Your words are clear proof that you have that bravery too. What a beautiful gift. Life is so bizarre and small and yet so very big and beautiful. Much love.

(01.04.17 @ 10:00 AM)
Matt Simon says:

Tara,

This was incredibly moving - thank you for sharing. Love you!

-Matt

(01.04.17 @ 11:13 AM)
Barbara Chandler says:

Tara, how beautiful! Jocelyn sent along to me and I have passed on to Mary Buccafusca. I saw your Mom when my Mother was at Bay Path. The first time I was near the elevators and there was a crowd of folks waiting in their chairs to go up, I spoke to one of the nurses there about my Mom and all of a sudden I heard, "Barbara, Barbara Chandler", I turned and there was your Mom. I was blown away to think she knew me after so many years of not seeing each other. Remember your Mom went with me to Hawaii back in 1979 or 80...we had soooo much fun, figuring out how to save the money to go, leaving kids with folks to take care of, and this all started with Mary B and girl scouts!!! My does time march. You look wonderful and I love your work so much. Have a wonderful 2017 and thank you for doing this, we all need reminders now and then. Oh how she loves her daughters!!!

(01.05.17 @ 10:49 AM)
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Mj says:

Just saw this and I am almost speechless. But you are full of precious words that convey your love for your mother and life itself. It makes me think of my mom and her struggles with Alzhemers. I was in some one way happy she got this ugly disease because maybe now she could forget her awful childhood. You are a beautiful soul , Tara and I thank God Kim brought you into my life. Much love to you and yours, mjs

(03.01.17 @ 05:17 PM)
Remember Cameron's house from Ferris Bueller's Day Off?  The cool one with the glass garage?  That's what the Arndt's house looks like.  After I gushed about their home for a full ten minutes after walking in, I got my camera out. :)  This family is so cool and talented and smart and gorgeous it's inspiring.  But since I'll never be any of those things it's inspiring in the way the Olympics are inspiring.  This is such a beautiful family and it's one of my favorite shoots of the year.  Enjoy.  and holy shit, THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!!!!
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