Embracing my vulnerability

Some of you may have been asking, “Is SOHOSTORY still in business?”  It's a fair question for you to ask, since it’s been fairly quiet over here.

The answer is, “yes.”  

For the last two months, I stepped away from photography to do non-photo related contract work.  I only had time to do a few portrait shoots on the weekends and documented Rolff’s story.  Otherwise, I was on hiatus.  

Although I was not initially expecting it to, the contract work changed the pace of my life.  I went from working all day and evening on my time to the typical 9-to-5 job on the company’s time.  This was not easy, but it was a “forced” opportunity for me to step away from my business - it gave me the chance to reflect on every aspect of my personal and professional life.

I also recently wrote a short photo essay about slowing down. I had to pause and think about my life.    

I saw myself in this tangled cables

Looking back at how I had been running my business, I now see how tangled it was.  I made an excuse that I was a creative and let myself too loose, just like all the cables in the photo.  I was like a firefighter - I went where there was fire, rather than creating my own.  As a creative, I should have be creating, not waiting to alter what had already been created.

Also, the experience of sharing Rolff’s story reminded me why I had started SOHOSTORY in the first place.  I have been called to be a storyteller, to tell stories that have yet to be told, and to tell those that glorify the One who deserves it.  When it all began, I was scared and had many sleepless nights, so I took the safe and easy route.   I took all the jobs that paid my bills and ignored others that could have really meant something.  Even my photographs were not me - they were simply pretty pictures that did not say much of anything.  My mantra became, “fake it til I make it.”  And honestly, I just did not want to be vulnerable and didn’t know how to deal with it.    

I had to refocus myself.

Rolff’s story was shared at a time when I was most vulnerable and lost about why I had entered the world of storytelling.  Even though I was scared and fearful, I felt compelled to share.  I thought no one would ever see it, but I was ok with that.  I wasn’t trying to build traffic on my website.  The story just had to be told.  To my surprise, the story was shared by many and donations for the family flooded in.  It was amazing to see how Rolff’s life had touched so many people’s hearts and the love of God was shared throughout the community.

My favorite photo

With this experience, I am slowly learning to embrace my vulnerability.  This is possible because I have a loving wife who keeps me grounded.  Without her, none of this would even exist.  Also, I am so grateful to be surrounded by people, like my colleagues at WELD, who constantly remind me to do so.  SOHOSTORY will continue to take beautiful portraits, headshots, and event photos, but the main focus will be to share stories.

Take 10 minutes and watch this video from TED.  It’s by Brené Brown, called “The power of vulnerability.”

Saying goodbye to Rolff - Part2

Written by Sojung Lee

Rolff was a student in my first period.  Every morning, he walked into my classroom about 20 minutes before the bell to put his backpack down at his seat.  At first, he would shyly say, "hi" and walk out of the classroom, only to return when the bell rang.  Some days, he sat quietly to finish up last minute homework.   

As he became more comfortable with me, he told me about soccer tryouts and how he was nervous that he would not make the team.  The morning after he found out he had made the team, he came in smiling, ear to ear, and proudly told me, "I made the team!"  He continued to tell me about games as the year went on, always with such excitement.  

It was very difficult seeing Rolff, who had been so full of energy, lying lifelessly in the ICU for the past couple of weeks.  However, each time I went to visit the hospital, it was also incredibly uplifting despite the sadness.  The love of God and His undeniable peace was ever-present.  

His parents were always so full of hope and joy.  Even at the funeral, they were praising God, thanking Him for the time He had given them with their son.  Rolff's life is such a powerful testimony of God's love.

She didn't move for a long time...

Before services began, people knelt down beside Rolff, some praying and others mourning.  It was hard to watch those who lingered beside him for a while…  I can only imagine how painful it must have been that day for those with children of their own, unable to fathom what it would be like to lose their own child.

Rolff's classmates and teachers were asked to pay their respects at the alter.  More than half of the room got up from their seats to stand in line.  There must have been over a hundred, maybe 150 people, waiting in line to see Rolff.  

Rolff's middle school teacher saying goodbye

My first tear of the day was while I was standing in that line.  I had been crying so much for him, I really thought that I was not going to have any tears left for the day of the burial.  But waiting to see him one last time, before they closed the coffin, I was overwhelmed with emotion and my tears did not stop until I said my final prayer over his tiny body.

Once everyone was re-seated, I saw that the room was filled to the brim, overflowing.  People lined the walls and stood on the sides, and those standing in the back were outside the doors of the funeral hall, looking in through the windows.  Every seat had been filled by the multitudes of students, teachers, friends and family members that had come to say goodbye.

The services begins with stories of Rolff told by family and friends.  There were many good memories shared.

Service and the songs sung by various family members were all in Spanish, but it did not matter that I did not understand.  The love in the room kept my heart warm.

Rolff's friend praying for him

After services, people continued to linger over Rolff, praying for him, and comforting family members and each other.

Camila's last kiss and goodbye. Just a sweet moment.

Father's prayer and last goodbye.

Mother's goodbye

Closing of the casket

Rolff's friends carrying the casket.

Family carrying the casket to the grave

At the burial site, friends & family members carried Rolff's casket to the grave.

Balloons were let go into the sky, symbolizing Rolff's ascent to heaven.  

The burial was especially heartbreaking because his teammates could not hold back their tears as they lowered his casket into the ground.  They mourned for the loss of their teammate and friend. I wish I could have hugged them all and told them that Rolff was now in heaven.. that they all had a guardian angel looking out just for them.. that God was working through Rolff's life and death to bring us closer to him.

Seconds before the closing of the concrete box

Family and friends took turns shoveling the earth on top of his casket and dropped flowers into the grave.

After Rolff had been buried, all of the flowers that had been donated by family and friends were piled on top of the mound.  It was gloomy but wonderfully beautiful at the same time.

Here are few additional photos....

Jesus is by his side

Mother and Father standing by their son for their final hour

She told me how much she will miss Rolff... They were very close.

Saying goodbye to Rolff - Part 1

All the flowers were donated by friends and family.

It's never easy to say goodbye to a loved one.  Saying goodbye to Rolff was very emotional, but uplifting because lived a life sharing his love.  Story after story was about how he loved others.   The photographs from the funeral show just that...

The first day of the funeral was beautiful.  There are no other words to describe it.  So many people showed up hours before and quietly sat in the pews, waiting for the service to begin.  Even through the chaos, Rolff's father made sure he took care of everyone, including asking an American pastor to share a message in English before the Spanish service, which was so thoughtful.

The family also decided to have services on two different dates to accomdate the schedules of Rolff's family, friends, and teachers - one on Sunday and another on Monday.  They wanted to give everyone a chance to say goodbye to Rolff.

The funeral began with Rolff's soccer team marching in together to display his worn jersey.  The team will dearly miss their #13 teammate and friend.  

The sermon and music were both in both English and Spanish.  Even though I couldn't understand everything, it was so heartfelt.  


The funeral ended very peacefully.  Many people stayed around to say their goodbyes to Rolff and comfort the family.  There was so much love in the room.

Rolff's Uncle & Aunt saying their goodbyes.

Forever #13

Rolff's soccer team paying their respects to the family.

Rolff's coach whispered his goodbyes to him.

Rolff's grandmother sharing a message.

Camila sharing her story about Rolff.

Goodbye, Rolff. We'll see you, again!

Yesterday (April 5th, 2013), At 11:02 AM, Rolff left this earth to be with God.

I got the message approximately 10 mintues after his passing.  I rushed out of the office and got to the hospital as quickly as I could.  By the time I arrived at 11:30, many of his family members were mourning over his death.

All the posters and balloons had been taken down from the wall,  medical machines turned off, and the room was silent.  I had mixed emotions...  I began tearing up as I saw and heard other family members grieving.  But I know that he is with God.  Rolff's dad was constantly encouraging everyone, saying that everything is ok and he is with Jesus.

At one point, Rolff's father played a song on his phone... a beautifully sad song in Spanish.  Everyone, including myself, burst into tears.  He placed the phone right next to his head on top of the bible for Rolff to hear.

Behind all the sadness, there was so much love in the room.  Some of the family members said that they felt the love of Christ through Rolff's life.  It is amazing to see how love can be so transparent.   Even the ICU doctors and nurses came by throughout the day to pray for him.  He has touched so many peoples' hearts, including mine.

Nurses disconnecting the wires and tubes.

The nurses came in and disconnected all the wires and tubes; Rolff's mother and aunt cleaned him.  As the aunt was cleaning him, she was singing and humming songs of hope.  It was such a beautiful moment that I'll never forget.  I simply can't describe it with words...

There was a young boy that looked very distressed in the room.  I asked him if he was Rolff's cousin.  He answered, "Yes, but he was like a brother to me.  We grew up together..."  The boy's mother told me that they had played together since they were little and even slept in same crib as babes.

The three best friends.

His two best friends came and said goodbye to him.  They know in their hearts that they will see him again.  

The visitation is set for Sunday, April 7th from 1PM- 8PM, with religious service starting at 5:30 pm by Pastor Jesse Luna.

Gonzalez Funeral Home Chapel

1111 Military Pkwy, Mesquite, TX 75419

he funeral is set for Monday, April 8th, at 2 PM- 3:30 PM, Words of Grace (Viewing is from 10AM-2PM).  

Gonzalez Funeral Home Chapel

1111 Military Pkwy, Mesquite, TX 75419

Burial Services following Words of Grace is at Pleasant Ridge Cemetery.

4402 Belt Line Road.  Sunnyvale, TX 75082

Thank you all for the support and kind words for Rolff and his family.  They sincerely want to thank each and one of you.

I end this with my own personal story.  I am humbled and honored that people are thanking me for sharing Rolff's story.  Thank you for taking the time to read and share this with others.  I just had to share the love I saw and felt through Rolff and his family.  Through Rolff and his father, I saw what God must have felt when He had to see his Son die for us.  It's that kind of love that I wanted to share.

The flood of emails and donations are beyond what I imagined.  I am grateful to have the ability to share this story.  I do this not to bring glory to my name but only to bring Glory to the name of God.  

Please share Rolff's story with people around you.  This story is worth sharing.

Donations are still being collected to support Rolff's family with medical expenses.  For those who have donated, Thank you so much for your kindness.

A mother's kiss.

Father gently speaking to his son.

Rolff's dad is assuring them Rolff is now with Jesus.

I prayed for Rolff and said my goodbye.

Last kiss from his aunt.

Everything is turned off

Mother cleaning her son for the last time

Nurse came by to pray for him

Rest in peace, Rolff.  We love you.

Updates on Rolff

*Updated post here

If you haven't had the chance already, please view the previous blog post for Rolff here.

Yesterday, shortly after I posted the blog post and Rolff's page, I received an e-mail from Sojung.  His parents had decided to pull the life support and it would happen at 4:00 PM.   Rolff was in so much pain from a variety of complications that they wanted the suffering to stop and let him rest.  

It broke my heart.  With tears in my eyes, I packed my things and left the office in a panic.  I immediately texted Sojung and we decided to visit Rolff.

We arrived at the hospital around 4:45 PM.  The only camera I had was my instax (a polaroid camera) and my phone.  I knew that so many people were waiting for an updates, so I took my chances.  

When we got to the ICU, we were told that the life support had been pulled at 4:10 and that no one except family was allowed in the room.  We patiently waited.  Each minute felt like an hour... 

Life Support is off.

Around 5:30 PM, Camila and Rolff's father came out and told us we could come in to see him.  When we walked in, there were 8 family members in the room, praying, reading the bible, and standing by his bed side.   It was such a blessing to see how strong and faithful they are.  

The room looked a little empty with the numerous life support machines now gone.  With nothing beeping or pumping oxygen, the room was quiet.  

Rolff is breathing on his own and fighting for his life.  He looks much better as all the tubes have been removed from his head and mouth.  The doctors are unsure of how much longer he will be able to breathe on his own.

There were many tears, including mine, but the room was filled with hope and prayers.  Every person in the room is faithful and trusts in God for Rolff.  

Whatever happens, we know that God is with him.

I pray for Rolff and his family.

Rolff's grandmonther praying for Rolff as she lays her hand on his head

The nurse cares for Rolff and his tireless mother rests for just a minute.

We are asking for donations because the medical bills are extremely high.  I can't share every detail but I hope to put it in perspective for you:  
The drunk drivers insurance is not able to cover much.  Also, the lawayers are still trying to blame the aunt for the accident.
The CareFlite transport costs $22,000 per person.  The cost of ICU is more than $3,000 per day without life support and can go beyond $10,000 with life support.

Every penny that is donated will be given to Rolff's family.

Feel free to leave a comment for Rolff or questions for me.