As I wake up for Valentine’s Day, I am not going to be thinking about the usual, ugh! Lol! Today, I am instead thinking back to the fall, to a very special occasion I didn’t get to write about, a beautiful wedding between two amazing individuals, who, once they met each other, grew a Love so amazing, so brilliant, they wanted to celebrate it from the tops of mountains, at the tops of their voices, with all of their loved ones there to witness it. I had the joy of photographing this insanely-in-love couple on their special day. And not unlike many couples on their wedding day, I felt their love and their romance was contagious. I left with a renewed optimism for finding love, for finding that one true soulmate, for feeling something so pure and so unencumbered I had no fear of telling everyone in the world about my absolute devotion and commitment. I love to photograph a couple on their special day, or any couple so in love on any day they choose to share with me, because as I cherish capturing those intense emotional moments on camera to live for eternity, as they know their love will. I love to feel the feelings in their faces through the camera. It’s a rare special gift they are giving me, letting me in to share that moment, their feelings.
Most of you know by now, and if you haven’t seen my hashtags on Instagram (#THISisAutism, #LifeThroughTheOtherLens, etc.), you must have stumbled on this blog from somewhere else, haha! My son, the coolest kid their is, lives with autism. He is greatly affected by his autism, and when he had the formal diagnosis by his second birthday, the developmental pediatrician sat across from us at her desk and said (as I remember it), “All those visions you have for your child’s future, get rid of them. He will never go to Prom… He will never graduate high school… He will never have a driver’s license… He will never get married.” Yes, it was that harsh. And to this day, I feel the hardest part of it all, and I imagine with most special needs parents, is getting over all of those dreams, all of those visions you had for your child’s life and future.
But is Love not a human condition? Is Love not a human right? It’s so fundamental, like breathing, and needing water. Can any of you really say you’ve never been in love? Or don’t want to be in love for most of your life? How can a person live and not feel Love? How can my son live completely without ever feeling Love or feeling the companionship of a relationship? These thoughts have kept me up at night, more so than most of the other basic fears. I can live with my son not graduating from a university, if he chooses not to. I can be happy with him having a job that I may not feel is high-acheiving if it makes him feel a sense of accomplishment. I can be very happy with him having a community he is part of and feels a sense of belonging with his peers. But how can he feel complete without Love?
In the mid-1980’s, life for parents of autism changed as they knew it when Temple Grandin first spoke of her experiences as a person on the autistic spectrum. She opened people’s minds to the facts that people with autism were intelligent, were feeling, could hold several advanced degrees, and could have jobs and even better, careers. She enlightened us that being non-verbal was not a reflection of intelligence, it was a disability not unlike any other impairment. That moment was life-changing for countless autistic people and their families who lived with them and understood what they were experiencing after that moment. Temple Grandin opened minds, opened doors and opened opportunities for all autistic people with her revelations. Thank God!
So back to the wedding in September… the difference with this gloriously happy couple in love? They are on the autism spectrum, and everyone who played a roll in the wedding… also on the autism spectrum!
This wedding was my Temple Grandin moment!
Anita And Abraham are two lovely adults with autism who met at a support group meeting for autistic people, seeking friendship and a like-minded community. Not unlike all the millions of people who fall in love everyday, they did so in a very regular, very typical way, just like anyone else. And when they decided to announce their love from rooftops for everyone to hear, they wanted everyone to see that people with autism can fall in love, can have a relationship, can get married and do so with the support of their autistic community! The officiant was on the spectrum, the dj had Asperger’s, the harpist was non-verbal autistic, the cake-baker, a child on the autistic spectrum, the flower-girls and ring-bearers… all on the autism spectrum. And I, being a mom of an autistic boy, and known for my photos of children with autism, was proud to be the photographer.
Before the wedding, Anita and Abraham had some rocky encounters with family and were feeling pretty low. We were standing in the hallway about an hour before the ceremony and I took my camera off and talked quietly with Anita. I told her that her and her fiance were in love and getting married, changing their lives forever, but this was such a huge life-changing moment for so many parents like me. They were making an enormous step for hope for us, they were giving us back a dream that we all had for our children with autism, that dream of them finding Love. They were our Temple Grandin!
Tears flowed in Anita’s eyes, Abraham held her cheek gently, whispering how much he loved her, and they walked down that aisle, with several kids with autism happily dancing the evening away following. But with their vows of commitment came a restored dream of Love and relationships for all of our children. So today, I don’t feel optimism for me necessarily, but for my son. He will one day feel romance, and butterflies when he sees a girl, and he will hopefully not have too many heartaches before he finds “the one.” But I know he will find is one true love, one day!
Thank you Anita and Abraham! Congratulations! And may you have a wonderful and romantic day today and for the many many days and years to come!! I will always cherish being part of your special day!
You might enjoy some of the other numerous articles that have featured this amazing couple and momentous wedding…