Shawna and Cashe: Remembering Kristin

I have struggled with writing this blog post for weeks, and now, on the eve of the one year anniversary of Kristin Raymer’s death, I am hoping that I find the right words. At twenty-seven, Kristin was too young to die. She fought a courageous battle with cancer and even in the face of immeasurable pain Kristin was an unforgettable example of how life ought to be lived.

Tattooed on the inside of her wrist, in unassuming letters were the words: Laugh, Live, Dream, Love.

These words, though small on her wrist, and small on this screen as I type them, become something much bigger if allowed to be the mantra they were for Kristin.

Laugh. Live. Dream. Love.

I had the privilege of photographing Kristin with her family in the last months of her life. The session was filled with so much love and so much laughter. I remember watching Kristin connect so deeply with her sister Kayla, and thinking that I had so much to look forward to, watching my girls grow into themselves, together. (you can see the photos by clicking HERE)

Laugh. Live. Dream. Love.

Kristin seized each and every opportunity to do these four things. Whenever I talk to someone who knew Kristin, they speak of how she loved to laugh and how she took pleasure in the simple things. At the end of her life, she had a handful of things on her bucket list. She wanted to go to the beach one last time, she wanted to scrapbook and listen to good music and most of all she wanted  to surround herself with the people who were most important to her, friends and family.

In hindsight, these things seems so ordinary, so daily, but isn’t life really just a collection of these ordinary moments?

When I look at my own childhood photo albums, there are the expected pictures of birthday parties and family vacations, Christmas mornings and Easter egg hunts, baptisms and ballet recitals. These are all important documented memories, but every now and then, behind the sticky plastic protective sheet, I find a gem of a photo in the midst of all the others – placed there as if by accident or afterthought. Usually the subject is engaged with something other than the viewfinder our outside the frame. The expression is always genuine, be it pensive or joyful, cheeky or proud. Something about these images always make me pause. It’s the moments such as these that I want to preserve. The memories in between the birthday parties and ballet recitals. Often, these memories we don’t capture on film. We instead capture them with our mind’s eye and inscribe them on our hearts.

A photograph is an amazing thing, but it cannot capture the way it feels to run barefoot in the grass first thing in the morning – the backs of your legs sticky with dew. It cannot capture the way it feels to jump with abandon into the icy cold waters of Lake Huron on the first day of summer, and to scream with delight just for the joy of it. It cannot capture the way it feels to climb to the top of an ancient, knobby tree for the first time – simultaneously terrified and elated as you sit in your perch and watch the dappled sun filter through the maple leaves.

A photograph cannot capture the feeling of the first time you kiss your husband – and the way that moment will be replayed in your mind for the rest of your life. A photograph cannot capture the feeling of the first kiss you place on your newborn babe’s soft forehead or the first time you count her twenty tiny fingers and toes.

A photograph cannot capture the overwhelming feeling of loving your child both gently and fiercely and it cannot capture the feeling of losing that child to Cancer.

As Kristin’s family grieves on this day, and as so many others grieve with them, Kristen’s legacy is remembered.

Laugh. Live. Dream. Love. Four small words to ponder in our ordinary lives. Four small words to experience daily.

A few weeks before Kristin’s death, she asked me to photograph her with one of her closest friends, Shawna, and her two year old daughter, Cashe. Sadly, Kristin passed away before we had a chance to take these photographs.

Feeling helpless in the face of death, and in the face of such an overwhelming loss for so many people, I asked Shawna if she still wanted to take the photos, but instead in Kristin’s memory. On the day of the session, Shawna dressed Cashe in a little outfit with items that Kristin (‘Nene’ as she was known to Cashe) had given her.

I worried about how we would honour Kristin’s memory in the photographs, but as soon as I took out my camera and pressed the shutter for the first time that evening, my worries disappeared. The evening was peaceful and beautiful.


Kristin was with us.


She was in the gentle, summer breeze tousling Cashe’s hair as she lifted her face to the sun. She was in the evening light dancing off my lens and creating a rainbow of flare in the images. She was at the centre of the giggles and the cuddles that Shawna and Cashe shared. She was in Cashe’s raspy two year old voice, singing “Hey Jude” (a song Kristin had taught her).

“Hey Jude, don’t make it bad.

Take a sad song and make it better.

Remember to let her into your heart,

Then you can start to make it better.”

Kristin, you are remembered. You are loved. We are all better people to have known you however briefly or intimately it was. And we think about the words that you knew were important enough to have tattooed on your skin.

Laugh. Live. Dream. Love.

The indelible mark on Kristin’s arm has become and an indelible mark on the souls of every life she has touched. These simple words can speak to you in still, small whispers on the worst of days, and sing a resounding song on the best.

Laugh. Live. Dream. Love.

Four small words to make a life.

And make it a good one.1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42


3 thoughts on “Shawna and Cashe: Remembering Kristin

  1. It’s very rate to come across a story with a series of photos that can bring such a message as this. This story tells me to really make sure the I live each day and make it a masterpiece. To hold my children a little tighter when they ask for that 3rd bedtime hug and to always make sure the ppl I love her it from me. Thank you Kristen for leaving a legacy of love.

  2. Sarah, you have a gift. Your tribute to Kristin is sincere, heartfelt and genuine, but most of all inspiring.
    Your photos reflect that reality, humanity and love.
    Thank you for sharing

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