In elementary school I had this obnoxious habit of picking the shy/friendly boys and chasing them around the playground. Thank god none of them ever called my bluff and let me catch them – I was all bark and no bite. Eric though . . . that kid had bite. He got so pissed at me he stood his ground one day and punched me in the stomach. Hard. I lost my breath and it hurt like hell but I played it off. Terribly, mind you, but I was determined to play it tough.

But that one day on the playground – he earned my respect and my admiration for not being another sucker that let the goofy looking girl chase them down. The next year, Eric didn’t come back to my school. His family had moved to the next town over and while I saw him play in a football game every once in a while,  I figured our lives were divided and we’d move on. I was sure I’d never see him again.

Fast forward a decade or two and while at my cousin Amber’s house for dinner one night, I happened to catch a glance of a picture on a bookshelf of her and her boyfriend. I kept staring at it thinking he looked so familiar but I couldn’t quite place it. My Aunt Sissy caught me looking at it and asked me “Do you remember him? Because he sure remembers you.”

I was floored. He was all grown up and he made the perfect couple with Amber. Seriously – they were nauseatingly beautiful. I’ve always regretted not making it out to help them celebrate when they ran away years later to elope.

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Another few years and two amazing babies later and I remember getting an email from Amber that said “Eric’s really freaking me out. He’s talking about leaving his job at Yale and running away to join the circus. He wants to play with his camera for a living.” I laughed my ass off. She couldn’t quite bring herself to say that her husband wanted to leave everything safe behind to become a photographer. But if Amber is nothing else, she is amazingly strong and supportive and encouraging. And sure enough, he did it. If she would have known then what she knew years later about his talent, she would have encouraged him to “Join the circus” years earlier.

He started sharing photographs on a blog, then he started a business and started doing more, then Amber caught the “circus bug” and they were producing AMAZING boudoir photos and booking weddings in only god knows how long of an advance. I was hooked to their work. I had told them on more than one occasion that I wanted my husband and I to have our wedding all over again just so I could have pictures of us taken by them.

Eric’s work very quickly became a “standard” for me in photography. I found myself comparing wedding photographs to his style and very rarely did anything meet the standard I had set by his work. Seriously – check out the work on their Facebook Page. 

I was honored and humbled to call him family. And to watch him with his kids . . . you just knew that they were going to be amazing. And they are. Even our son adored his “Auntie Ammer” and “Uncle E” after spending a night at the house with Avery and Ryder. Granted, my 4 year old kid came home knowing all the words to Ke$ha and Rhianna songs, but that just made the experience even more awesome. He still asks to visit them at least once a month still even though that night was almost 2 years ago now.

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Then, last week, while on vacation with my husband, I was stalking FB news feeds and saw an article that was posted about Eric being missing. I was shocked – it didn’t make sense. And as the week wore on and I stayed glued to the news feeds and google alerts that I had set up, I was finding it harder and harder to believe that someone so young, with so much promise, and such a beautiful family could possibly not make it home. My heart broke every night that there wasn’t any news. Until this morning. When it broke even harder. Amber and the kids officially had closure around noon today.

Most folks would look at this situation and think it was yet another lesson from the “life is too short” book. But it was so much more than that. It was truly inspiring to see how many lives Eric had touched through his camera . . . the support and the folks that showed up to help search for him . . . everyone from people he took pictures of, to fellow photographers and even some that he had never met . It’s proof that Eric’s character . . . YOUR character . . . is defined by what you do when no one is watching.

Now – Eric is watching. The Langlois family has their very own wonderful angel to look over them. One of his friends had posted that she couldn’t wait to see his pictures of Heaven. Could you imagine?

The folks that showed up to support Amber and help in the search took it upon themselves to start a fundraiser. That brought on tears for me as well. To see folks share and support in so many different ways for one family . . . amazing doesn’t seem a strong enough word. Should you find yourself compelled – you can find the fundraiser here.

And Eric . . . could you do me a favor? After you give your mom all the hugs you can handle . . . could you find my folks and say “Hi” for me? Make sure they’re staying out of trouble up there. Make sure my Beeb has a cabinet full of cookies, and bring Pop-Pop a new Skip-Bo deck from me. We love you.

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