On July 2, in 2005, almost exactly eight years after I took this photo, the child seen here died. This year, with this post, I want to share a bit of his story, and some of the photos I had taken of him.
Counting on the Woods, the picture book by George Ella Lyon which I have mentioned in earlier posts, doesn't have a child in the words, but, as the illustrator, I felt a child was at the heart of the story. So I asked my neighbor, Kyle, if he would want to be photographed for my book. No pay involved. Four photos of him ended up in the book, and one on the dust jacket. For three of these, he and I went out into the woods, and, for the sycamore (see above), I went to his house.
Kyle was ten at that time; he was 18 when he died from abusing prescription drugs with friends. He had graduated from high school a month earlier.
His family lost a son, a grandson, a nephew, a brother. His death is part of an epidemic that has had enormous impact in Appalachia as well as across our nation. We Americans have not yet been resolute enough to insist on finding life-saving solutions to stop this needless devastation.
After the funeral, at their home, family members drove the coffin to the hillside family cemetery which overlooks their home. I took only two pictures of them leaving, the end of a roll of film. I felt since they were used to my taking photos of Kyle that they would understand I was taking this last one as a tribute to him, and as my way of showing my appreciation and affection for their child, a fine human being who had become my friend.
In this last photo, taken a week ago, Kyle's family's home is visible to the right of the pine tree. I was trying to show the lay of this land and a family's connection to it and to each other. I am writing this post today with their full support. They miss Kyle a great deal.
I am reminded that the importance of a book is in all the stories it can tell. So thanks again, Kyle, for how at home you were in the woods and for understanding what it was we were creating together. It means a lot to me that you were always proud of the book you helped to make.
Margaret Mead reminds us: "Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has." I'm sorry and sad that a young person's life ended way too soon, and I write all this in hopes we get our butts in gear in time to halt this senseless destruction.