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I don’t know what to name this post…

On a Tuesday this past February, I was online and a message from Jason popped up on my screen.  He and Anna were pregnant with their first child and wanted to go ahead and get on the calendar for a preggo session sometime in April.  It was a three way message between me/him and Anna and we chatted back and forth for a bit catching up and such.  In the end, they decided on April 19th for the session.  He then went on to send me photos of these huge trout to show Dave…and we made plans to head up to their favorite place in Bowden, West Virginia to go camping and fishing once it warmed up.

I met Anna and Jason in 2006 when they hired me to be their wedding photographer.  We clicked right away and through the years we would still meet up to have a meal or just take pictures.  I was very excited to see them again…it had been way too long.  It would be good to hear about the new baby and I know Jason would be planning and painting and preparing the nursery…I wanted to hear all about it.

A few days later, I woke up at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep.  Bored and wide awake, I checked my phone and had a message from Anna.  “Call me when you get this message.”  My heart stopped.  It couldn’t be what I thought it was…I shook off the thought and wrote her back.  “It’s 3am, I’m sure you are probably sleeping by now…I’ll call you as soon as I get up in the morning.”  But I wasn’t surprised when another message popped back just a few seconds later.  “No.  Call me now.”

My heart still sinks when I think about that moment.  I knew what it was before I even made the call.  But I had hoped that it was untrue…it couldn’t be true because Jason was too strong, too smart, too much of a good person.  It couldn’t have been him.  No.  A few hours before, I had heard about the accident on Chimney Top Rock and knew the man was from Cincinnati on an annual group camping trip in the Red River Gorge.  My thought immediately went to Jason because I knew that he did make an annual trip to the RRG with his friends. But I quickly set those thoughts aside because his trip was usually in the fall.  Besides in our conversation just a few days before, he didn’t mention that he would be in my neck of the woods.  But just to ease my mind, I checked his Facebook page…no mention of a camping trip.  Ok I could sleep now.

But sometimes our reality is not what we want it to be.  It was Jason.

I hiked up to the base of Chimney Rock and found his wedding band.  I felt like this is what he wanted me to do.

When I returned the ring and other personal belongings I found, we sat and cried.  And I answered questions as best I could.  I asked her if she still wanted to do the session in April.  She wasn’t sure.  She said she didn’t feel it was right since Jason was gone.  I told her that since Jason had set it up, I wanted to at least meet up with her that day.  Maybe have dinner.  

I felt like this is what he wanted me to say.

The week of the session, I got a message from Anna.  Yes.  She wanted to do the photographs.

She felt that Jason wanted her to have them.

She went into labor just two days before the scheduled photo session and was put on bed rest.  It was four weeks before due date.  But I came up to Cincy anyway…because Jason had set up this appointment and this was how it was to be.  She agreed.  I visited and we talked for awhile and took just a few photos…but it was all I needed…and just about all she could handle.

And then.  One week later she gave birth.

I always try to guess the gender of the child and I have never once gotten it right.  For Anna, I said girl when everyone was saying boy.

I was right.


I’m going to end this post one of my favorite photos of Jason and Anna.


Jason,  you’re welcome.

Anna is going to be alright.  Maybe not now.  Maybe not tomorrow.  But someday she will.



John May - May 8, 2015 - 11:20 pm

thank you for sharing this. I’m the training officer for WCSART and I helped recover Jason that night. Several of us have struggled with Jason’s death. Although this is a tragic and sad story, it’s comforting to see his wife and child. We wish them the best and perhaps one day we will meet them both. Jason’s story will always be part of us.

Dorrie McCarthy - May 9, 2015 - 5:07 am

The pictures of Avery laying on her sweet dog are amazing. Thank goodness for this little girl 😉

Karen Thomas - May 15, 2015 - 12:31 am

This is absolutely beautiful! I graduated high school in Cortland with Jason and had actually just moved down to Cincinnati a few months before his accident. He was a wonderful person and I love seeing the pictures of of his beautiful wife and daughter and dog (we have a boxer that looks almost identical to theirs!). You did a wonderful job on the pictures and I hope everything turns out good for them in his absence.

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