Once and a while a story we cover really touches us. It becomes a part of who we are and is impossible to forget.
Tuesday evening, Jessica Priest and I went to a visitation of a very special little boy, Stephen Shifferly, who passed away on December 1st, at four years of age. We were only blessed with meeting Stephen and his family for a few hours one day for one story, but the experience stuck with us long after.
Honestly, we weren’t sure upon being assigned the story how open the family would be or how they would react to us writing about them. We were told we would be interviewing a family about their 4-year-old son, who was on hospice, to write about what that was like for them. It sounded like an unimaginably hard situation to be dealing with and we were asking them to share it with us and with the community. So we may have rang that doorbell with a little anxiety.
We had nothing to worry about. When we met Amelia (mother), Nathan (stepfather), Stephen and his baby brother Keegan, they were so welcoming, friendly and open with us. It was such a joy to spend time with them that at the end of the interview it was hard to leave. I think it took us 30 minutes just to get from the couch to the door because we kept talking.
I felt honored to be able to attend his visitation and I’m sure Jessica did too. It’s not often we get to be just people, instead of journalists. We really wanted to show his family how much they touched us and how sorry we were that Stephen is no longer with us.
People can forget that we are impacted by the stories we tell. They get mad at us for what we write or take pictures of; they accuse us of hurting them on purpose or not caring about their feelings. Of course, this is never true. We feel for the people we meet, whether it’s at a car accident, a parade or on their couch in their home. It is why we do this job, we believe in the stories we tell. We may have to set aside our tears or frustration or wanting to help at the time we cover the stories, but it’s all there for us to feel when we get home.
Surprisingly enough, it can be in the hardest, most unthinkable situations that we meet the most incredible people and know we’ll never forget them. Like this family.
I know that we may not always make a huge difference in the lives of those we meet, but they definitely make a difference in ours.
And I’ll never stop being thankful for that.
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