Thank you, Jerry - a story from Moore, OK

When I heard about the devastation the tornadoes had left behind in Moore, OK, I felt called to go there.  I teamed up with the ministry organization, citiImpact, and was able to capture the stories of just a few the many people that have been affected.

Here is a story of the love and kindness of a man that saved 23 lives other than his own.

Although Oklahoma is in "Tornado Alley," many homes in the state do not have basements or storm cellars because the red clay of the Oklahoman soil makes it difficult and costly.

Jerry is one of the few residents in Moore that has a storm cellar.  2 days before the tornado hit, Jerry peeped over the fence to let his neighbor know that their family was welcome to take shelter in the storm cellar if need be.

2 days later, the tornadoes hit their neighborhood and his neighbors ran to Jerry's house to take cover.  People Jerry didn't even know came running and he welcomed them all in.

Jerry saved 21 people, including himself, and 3 dogs in his storm cellar.

Many were children.

The door to the shelter that saved so many people's lives.

The narrow stairs leading down to the storm shelter.

I had a chance to talk to two of the children that had been in the cellar during the tornado.  They were very calm about it and stated matter-of-factly, "no, we weren't scared at all."  One of the boys described how his mother's hair flew up when the tornado was right above them.

I had a chance to talk to him about his experience.  He told me he wasn't scared during the tornado.

This message tells it all.  Thank you Jerry.

On the wall of what remains of Jerry's house, one of the families he had saved came by painted a message, "Thank you Jerry.  U saved my family lives."

The families are looking for anything to salvage.

If you would like to help and support, please visit moore.recovers.org. This page is dedicated to serving the needs in Moore, OK.

Photo and artwork by merelypaper.com

This is merelypaper.

This is the face of Merelypaper.  

She is also my wife.  SOHOSTORY wouldn't exist without her.

After months of praying and preparing, Merelypaper is now open and running at full force.  We took her talent from pen and paper to make unique print designs.  The bright and simple designs are her signature.

Right now, she is being featured on Brickyard Buffalo, an online popup market.  Also, she will be featured in West Elm's Etsy Pop-Up Shop on June 1st.  We are blessed by the two event that we got to be part of.  Please stop by and say hello at West Elm. We would love to see you.

She's not always this serious.

This is more like her.

This is Rosie.

SOHOSTORY was created to tell stories through my eyes as a photographer.  

Do you have a story to share?  If so, contact me at info@sohostory.com.

This is Rosie.  

Meet my new friend, Rosie

She is a bright young lady.  I met her few months ago at the benefit concert for Younglife Capernaum.  Before the concert, her mother stopped me, with tears in her eyes.  She had heard some bad news from the doctors the day before and it has been hard for both of them. She asked me to photograph Rosie during the concert.  

I went up to Rosie right before the concert to greet her.  I lifted the camera up to my eye and she immediately gave me the biggest smile, so happy to be photographed.  I would never have been able to tell that she is in pain or sick.  

I later found out that she has chronic kidney pain with the added pain of scoliosis and pelvic stabilizer metal rods.  Now, she is dealing with an antibiotic allergy reaction that has caused rash, hives, and eye swelling, difficult to treat with medication.

During the concert, I frequently visited her to photograph her.  Each time I came around, she was so excited to see me.  I felt so blessed by her smiles.  There aren't enough words to describe the feeling of joy as a photographer when you get a reaction like that.

Her mother describes it perfectly: “I don't see how Rosie can keep so much joy with all the constant kidney pain and pain from scoliosis and pelvic stabilizer metal rods not to mention cerebral palsy muscle tone.”

Towards the middle of the concert, Rosie and her volunteers disappeared.  I quickly followed them out in to the hallway, not expecting to cry myself minutes later.  

Rosie was crying in the hallway and the volunteers were comforting her.  I didn't ask any questions and just stood behind, waiting.  When things settled, I walked up to her, and she once again smiled with excitement.  I looked down at her screen (she communicates via a communication device she types into), and it said " I am crying on [and] off."  

"I am crying of [and] off"

I began to tear up.  I had no idea why Rosie was sad, but I felt so ashamed.  

Up to that moment, I had ignorantly thought that people with disabilities have less feelings and emotions than I do.  I don't know why I had thought that when they are just as human as I am ...  They have the same amount of emotions and have feelings like everyone else.

I had to pause for a few minutes, praying for forgiveness ...

Rosie was sad because a song from the concert had reminded her of her friend.  She remembered that something bad had happened to him about a year ago and the memory had made her sad.

Please pray for her speedy recovery and better health.  Pray that the doctors are able to find medicine that is safe for her to use.  

Two awesome volunteers that I got to meet

Rosie is just one of the many beautiful stories of the children of Younglife Capernaum.  If you have a moment, please check out Younglife Capernum (http://www.younglife.org/Capernaum) and support them by volunteering your time or giving.  

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.

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.

Rolff

*Update posted: http://sohostory.com/blog/2013/4/4/updates-on-rolff

I have never cried while editing photos.  But I did today...

Rolff is one of my wife's students.  She always had many good things about him.

During the midweek of spring break, Sojung received a tough and unexpected message...  She was notified that Rolff had been in a tragic car accident with his aunt and her son, and they had been in the ICU for the past couple of days.  It was such a shock to both of us that we didn't know what to do.

They had hit by a drunk wreckless driver who was speeding at 90 mph on a 45 mph zone.

Sojung kept me updated everyday of his condition and we have been praying constantly for his recovery.  She forwarded an e-mail about how his family were selling bracelets to raise money.  I knew I wanted to help in anyway that I could by telling his story.  When I was first able to visit the hospital with my wife, I asked his parents permission to take photos of Rolff.

When I walked into the hospital room, I was speechless.  With all the IV bags, machines, quietness, and wires... I couldn't help but stop in my tracks.  Rolff is currently in a coma hooked up to a life support machine.  You can hear the breathing machine pumping oxygen into him as his chest goes up and down with each inhale and exhale.  

What amazed me most was how I saw so much more behind all the sadness.

Rolff's father greets us with a smile whenever we visit, and he is always watching over his son with a gentle smile.  It is so genuine and his smile describes the unconditional love he has for his son.  He speaks softly to Rolff constantly, gently touching his face, or massaging his hands and feet. 

Rolff's mother is also always by his bedside, praying for him.  She is full of hope and believes that he will recover soon.  She holds his hand under the blanket and speaks to him very quietly...

Around the room, there are many posters and balloons hanging on the wall from his friends and teachers at school.  I could see how much he is missed by everyone.

Rolff's aunt was in coma for three days but has woken up since.  Her last surgery, lasting more than 8 hours, repaired multiple things but the road to her recovery is long.  I pray for her recovery.

"Rolff: We are with you"

I ask for your help.  The students and faculty at Rolff's school sold bracelets to help support them with medical expenses.  However, the bills far exceed the amount of money that has been raised so far.  Spending just one night in the ICU is several thousands of dollars; Rolff has been there for the past month and will be there for longer.

I believe we can do more for him.  I have setup a donation page for Rolff and his family.  100% donation will be given to the family.

In addition, be on the lookout for an announcement about studio mini-sessions with SOHOSTORY to raise funds for the family.  All proceeds will go to the family as well.

Read more about Rolff on his page.  And leave a comment for Rolff and his family.  

Life Support

Rolff's dad never lost that smile on his face

He is praying and holding his son's hand.

Rolff's mom is constantly praying by his bedside.

Every time dad talks to Rolff, he gently massages his eyebrows and brushes his finger across the bridge of his son's nose.

His heart is still beating strong!

"Rolff: We are with you"