Read the stories behind our #IRemember collaboration; a series of eight real-life portraits capturing the universal - but often unique - experience of grief by world-renowned photographer, Rankin.
Read the full stories
I remember Kip.
Kip went through more than 4 years of treatment for leukaemia. We thought everything was going OK until he relapsed in October 2020, so he had to have a stem cell transplant. After initial hope, things went wrong and he died in July 2021, just after his 5th birthday.
We hated the fact that leukaemia and hospital played such a prominent part in his life. It seems like the first thing we remember; the most painful part of our memories.
The real Kip was full of joy and jokes, energy for dancing, the best cuddles, and a fascination with numbers and sea creatures. He loved making dens with his sister, playing in the garden, riding his bike, splashing in puddles and all the fabulous and frustrating things that little children do.
It's wonderful when people talk about Kip. It lets us know that they remember him too. Tears follow, but that’s such a small price to pay. The memories are so real, so precious, and felt as deeply as losing him.
Remembrance comes with laughter and tears. The two need to live side by side; we just need to be OK with that.
I remember Dad.
I was in a Holland & Barrett when Dad called to tell me he had stage 3-4 cancer. After a year and a half long fight, lots of chemo and surgery on his neck, he eventually was given a prognosis of weeks to months to live, and later died at our family home at the end of summer 2016.
This photo remembers one of the last fun and silly days we had together before life got progressively more serious and challenging for the family.
Dad always carried some humour with him along the way, from straight after his surgery, to in the room with the team of doctors giving him his final prognosis.
I miss days like the one in this photo, and of course cherish them. Too often grief is something kept inside and pushed away as we have to carry on with the normal fast-pace of life.
I remember Mimi.
She was my queen.
At first, I didn't want to hear ‘you're going to be fine’. I didn't want any of that. I didn't want to hear the conversations she was having with the children that she’d ask me to record on my phone.
She wanted to do all the right things, to have all the right conversations – she wanted to feel prepared. It took me a long time to feel ready for that. I went into autopilot, just trying to fix things.
Because I didn't want to give it a name. I wanted to hold on. But I understand now.
I remember telling the children, ‘I don't know what's going to happen, but we're going to try our best. Mummy is a soldier. She's a warrior. And she's showing us how to be warriors.’
I remember my wife.
This photo is from a special place we had – a lovely Indian restaurant in Aberystwyth that we would go to after leaving our kids with their Auntie! Her smile here is because of what had just happened. Having a curry made my nose run and I was blowing my nose with the usual 'trumpeting'.
Each time I had to do it, I noticed a family nearby - there were two young girls sitting with mum and dad who were finding the noises I was making hilarious, to such an extent that they were falling off their chairs, much to the confusion of their parents.
Her smile always blew me away.
When she was playing with the kids she always smiled.
She loved us all so much.
I miss her.
I remember Steven.
I lost my closest friend Steven Pretty, whom I loved dearly, in April 2022. He was only 45. Our friendship lasted 21 years and was a roller coaster of drama, joy, tears and much laughter. But it was also a friendship built on loyalty. Steven came to trust me after I helped him through several major upheavals in his life – from his father’s sad death to the trauma he experienced witnessing the terrible Grenfell Tower fire which he lived next door to. I supported him as I lived nearby. While trying to cope, we still found time to go on outings to castles and museums.
It was a shock losing Steven. Organising his funeral felt surreal but delivering the eulogy was a privilege. Death and funerals never really came up but I wish it had, because although it's a cliché, life really is too short.
In July 2019 we went to Camber Sands. The weather was so hot it felt like Spain. I took loads of photos, which make me remember happier times. I thought I’d feel sad having my photo taken next to him again, but I actually felt great elation.
Despite having his own issues, Steven was committed to helping others - whether it was at Christmas parties for the elderly or giving what little money he had to people sleeping rough. I will miss my beautiful friend for the rest of my life.
I remember my Abba and Amma.
Death always scared me to my core. Watching burials as a Pakistani girl, I witnessed the rituals.
Maut aik din sab ko aati hai (Urdu: Death comes to all), would say the elders. Kis ki pata si k aj isna aakhri diyarha ai. (Punjabi - Mirpuri dialect: Who knew it would be his/her last day).
As a Muslim, I was taught that death is part of life. I was very close to my father. After my marriage dissolved, I argued about the consequences of his choices; the forced marriage, the new home 4,000 miles away, the struggle as a single-parent. I was blessed to hear his apology and heartfelt sorrow. I was blessed for being able to visit him in Pakistan to apologise for being harsh with him. Days before his death, we argued further. He passed away suddenly after a spell of illness, peacefully and gracefully. My guilt lived on but so did his soul as a spirit guide. I was keen to not to repeat this experience with my mother, who I regularly clashed with. I quashed any outstanding conflicts with her whilst she was alive, as a way to beat life to it this time, before life beat me.
Today, their deaths have rewritten my understanding of death. Abba and Amma, not a day goes by when I don’t miss you. My soul is at peace because I finally understand - your death has not separated us, instead it has reconnected us. It has reconnected me to myself.
Kevin and Jack's story
We remember Bob.
On 1st March I lost my dad who was the most influential male figure I've had. He complained of stomach pains and from his admission to hospital to his passing was less than 36 hours. Everything happened so quickly.
The void he left can never be filled. He travelled the world as a Royal Marine, fought in Malaysia, attended Princess Margaret's wedding, met JFK and Charles de Gaulle and married the love of his life - our mum Rosemary.
He told me his proudest achievement was his grandson, Jack. Jack was born with Down's syndrome and a hole in the heart and we were told he may not survive. Jack defied the odds and ended up becoming his Grandad's best mate. My dad included and encouraged him in everything. Every year in November, Jack would go with his Grandad to lay a wreath in remembrance for the friends my father lost.
My dad taught me that by overcoming adversity you become powerful. We all miss him and his wisdom. It seems apt that #IRemember coincides with Armistice week. This will be the first year there is another hero missing, although I know my dad would be so proud that he is remembered.
I remember my Auntie and Grandma.
In January 2021 we lost two very important and impactful women in our family to Covid in Zambia. My Auntie and her mother (who I called Grandma) were matriarchs in a huge family and brought so much joy, safety and love. Within the last few years their immediate family lost their patriarch - our Grandad - to cancer and continued to support the wider family.
The common denominator of every memory and moment I spent with them is laughter. They taught me to seek joy and laughter in every moment, however difficult things may be. And I base my life resilience on that.
Living so far away from family makes grief a really difficult and complicated emotion and experience, as we are without the immediate and instinctual things that help.
The photo shared is the last time me and my ma were in Zambia visiting them and their glow is so evident.
With special thanks
This project was made possible by the support of end-of-life services provider, Dignity.
#IRemember photography series
As part of #IRemember 2022, world-renowned photographer Rankin collaborated with Dying Matters.