Reuters photographer Darrin Zammit Lupi documented the last months of her teenage daughter’s life as she and her family battled both the coronavirus outbreak and the cancer that eventually took her.
I took the first photo of my daughter Rebecca on August 3, 2005, right after she was born. A little over 15 years later, I took the last photo of my daughter after she died on January 3, 2021.
I am a photojournalist. It was natural that I would document every moment of Becs’s beautiful life as my wife Marisa and I searched for her. It was harder, much more difficult, documenting his illness and death from a rare and extremely aggressive form of bone cancer.
Last fall, Reuters released a photo trial with Wider Image, which made it even more impossible for our family to fight Becs disease due to the coronavirus outbreak that reached the island where we live, Malta. This article ended with a moment of hope after being discharged from the hospital after months of strenuous treatment. Hope was still a thing at the time, something I still firmly believed in and always chose to believe in the best scenario.
However, we had to take Becs to the hospital just two months after our discharge. It was Sunday, September 27th. None of us knew, but Becs was seeing our dog Cookie for the last time and our cats Zippy and Zorro, seeing the bedroom for the last time, leaving the house for the last time – he would never come back. Becs passed away very peacefully on Sunday morning, January 3, 2021, at 9:20 am, with no sign of distress. Mars, as I said to my wife, and we were both with her.
Eventually, his breathing became even shallower and shallower, until the gaps between them stretched out, becoming very slightly pale. Then there was no more. I kept talking to him, now convinced he can hear me and understand me better than before, he told him not to be afraid. I said that I would hold his hand as best I could, but I said that now he will find others to hold his hand and that he should go with them whenever he feels ready. I kept staring at the ceiling – don’t the people who died and were then portrayed in the hospital say they watched everything from the ceiling from above? Was Becs watching from there? Was he confused or did he know exactly what was happening and was calm and peaceful about everything?
All the nurses had entered the room and stood silently around his bed. I’m not sure if they understood what I was doing, why I was whispering to him as he looked away from his body, but I didn’t care. Now, every time I think of it (and these many moments), just as I am desperate to imagine it, I desperately search for signs that people say we will encounter, and yet do not. Maybe I’m trying hard and I need to let things happen and I will get to know them when they do.
In the months before he died, Becs was playing a game on his iPhone – “Sky Kids of Light.” He asked me to join him, so I upgraded my old iPhone to a newer model. I loved the game and loved playing with it. As our avatars traveled together, on various quests, floating through clouds and landscapes in different realms – I finally learned that it symbolizes different stages of life from early childhood to death and beyond – he was my guide, my mentor. My teacher. He (or rather his avatar) would take my hand and take me everywhere, and I wanted it to be that way. I tried to guide and teach him all his life and now he was doing the same to me. I cannot understand if he sees this game as some kind of allegory of his own life – even at a subconscious level.
The only part of the game that didn’t show me was the part where your character had to die in order to progress; He said I was not ready for this. Did he know that he was going to die soon? He certainly never mentioned or asked about it. We had previously decided that we wouldn’t tell him unless he specifically asked. How will you give this news to your child? For me, the game has finally become a metaphor for what happens after I get past myself – it will be there waiting for me, grab my hand, act as my guide and guardian, take me where I need to go.
(This story is not edited by Devdiscourse staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)