Monday, February 21, 2011

A Letter To My First Born Son - The Most Important Photo I've Ever Taken

Hello Son,

You may never actually remember having this photograph taken, but I will cherish it for the rest of my life. In fact, it may be the most important photo I've ever taken.

It was the day of your dedication. Your mother and I traveled to the town I was born (which is not the town I was raised in), and in a ceremony led by your grandfather (Papa) and witnessed by your "Uncle" Josh, your Aunt Carla, your cousin Clay, your God Parents, your great grandmother, and a might cloud of witnesses, we publicly dedicated you back to God. The day was beautiful. At 79 degrees it was the warmest of the year up to that point. You were dressed in an all white one piece which, like so many of your other clothes, had been a hand-me-down gift...worn by another little baby boy just like you. I don't think that Courtney Mwangura even intended it for such an occasion, but she couldn't have given a better outfit for the day.

On the way to the church we passed the hospital where I was born. My mind flashed back to the few memories I had growing up for a few years in this town. I hadn't been here in quite a few years and the nostalgia was both comforting and unsettling at the same time. When we pulled up to the church Papa was standing outside to greet us. He flashed a big smile. He was wearing his black robe -the one he only wears on special occasions such as this. It was cute on him. I had to tease him. I rolled the window down. "Hey Prophet," I shouted. He dropped his smile in an instant.

"Get outta here boy!"

The service had already started. You could hear the drums and the keyboard and the voices all the way outside. You had never experienced the shoutin'-n-praisin' good time they have in these small churches before. Mamma and I did not think you would be able to handle it. We thought for sure the sound would cause you to fuss throughout the entire service. We could not have been more wrong.

When the doors opened, a gush of sound rushed out. Instead of flinching or showing any sign of discomfort, you smiled...and continued to smile for the rest of the service. Your biggest smile came when Papa led the dedication ceremony itself. You were all gums the whole time. As important as the day was, the audience couldn't stop grinning. Mama and I had a chance to address the congregation. We thanked them all. We reaffirmed our commitment to love you, to raise you to know God, and to instill in you (through example) morals and values to help you become a man of distinction -an upstanding, socially and spiritually conscience individual who will live life fully and who will commit to use your time, talent, and means to help others do the same. Of all of the people in the congregation, there was one who was the most proud. She sat quietly on the front row. She was the only other person wearing all white.

When we got back home everyone was very hungry. We all knew we were in for a treat. The woman dressed in all white had prepared a glorious spread the day before. Pots rattled as we placed them on the stove to be heated up. We were all about to change into more comfortable clothes when your mother reminded me to get a photograph of you with the woman she so affectionately calls 'Grandma Pearlie'.

I placed you in her arms...and there sitting before me was my first born son and my oldest living ancestor. Holding you so carefully was the woman who raised me as if I were her very own, the woman who made me sit at the far end of the kitchen table (with the TV off) until all of my homework was done, the woman who took me to Sunday School and church every Sunday morning, the woman who picked me and half of the neighborhood up from basketball practice in her Bonneville station wagon, the woman who prayed to God to give her the strength to let her live long enough to see your face. Holding you was your 81 year old great-grandmother Pearlie Lee Taylor.

In less than 1 second this image was captured. But what it symbolizes is timeless. Whether you are able to remember this day or not, you will forever have this photograph as a permanent testament. You will be able to know what Bill Whithers meant when he sang so passionately about "Grandma's Hands".

Isaiah, you are an answered prayer. On this day when you were dedicated back to God, God allowed your great grandmother on earth, your grandmother in heaven, and all of us to witness it. We continue to pray that God cover and protect you and that God grant us all -this village of elders, parents, and friends the strength to be able to nurture your growth and to know that you will continue this tradition of humbling yourself before God while at the same time leading with courage and compassion. May God's grace continually shine upon you. We love you.

My True Vision Photography |


  1. Beautiful and Powerful, Carlton--the words and the picture. Thank you for sharing.

  2. This was very moving! Thank you for sharing this story. My husband and I are expecting our first child in April and we cannot wait to place her in her two great grandmothers' arms. Such a blessing for each of us to have a grandmother still living and it will be such a blessing for them to meet our new love!

  3. What a truly amazing letter! You have always had a gift for recognizing the moments that matter, most of us get to caught up in the daily hustle to stop and recognize them. Thank you for sharing this beautiful moment, thank you for the reminder to take the time out to cherish moments such as these, and most of all thank you for giving me a beautiful nephew to make memories with!

  4. Carlton,

    How beautiful, I read this aloud to Cheryl and couldn't help shedding
    tears of joy. What a treasure to have beautiful parents, but even more importantly a beautiful father who is sensitive, talented and proudly reflective. We love you guys. Keeping letting your light shine. Our best to the proud parents!

    Darlene n Cheryl

  5. so proud to have witnessed the amazing events of this past weekend, including this picture. 'Grandma's Hands" indeed :)
    I love you all like crazy...
    Uncle Josh

  6. this is incredible... i'm sitting here crying on my couch. beautiful picture, touching story, perfect memory.