Norma's Sunrise: Photo session takes on deeper meaning


This gorgeous sunrise print created on the banks of Tennessee's Pickwick Lake took on much deeper meaning at the passing of one of my best friend's mother.

I woke up in the wee hours of June 5 on my final morning at Tennessee's Pickwick Lake, and decided I would head to the banks of the lake to capture what promised to be a stunning sunrise.

By 5 a.m. I was set up, just waiting on some magic to happen. About 5:15, my friend Craig Lamb and his wife pulled up, and joined me. Craig and I were there to work a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament, and we had some early morning business to take care of. 

Next, veteran Bassmaster photographer James Overstreet showed up. We all are traveling brothers, and James and I work together on non-fishing photos as often as possible.

It was so nice to enjoy the start of the day with two of my best friends. We chatted quietly as we waiting on color to show in the clouds above.

At 5:20, I started opening the shutter. It was all over by 5:30, and we turned to working a Bassmaster photo gallery with the professional anglers who had qualified for the tournament's Top 10 finale.

About 15 minutes later Craig eased up to me and said quietly, "My mom passed away at 5:28 (a.m.)."

His 97-year-old mother Norma had been in Dallas nursing home, and she had entered hospice a couple of weeks ago. But that didn't make it any easier to hear the news. Even though I never had the privilege to meet Mrs. Norma, I choked up seeing the obvious pain on Craig's face.

We had talked about his mom over the past couple of years. And she sounded like a real spitfire. Even as she approached a century of life, Craig told stories of her sharp memory and wit.

He had visited her while we were in Texas for a tournament in mid-May, and he came back laughing about her health.

As that situation changed rapidly, Craig decided he wasn't going to see her in her final days. "I had a great visit with her, and that's how I want to remember her," he explained.

I absolutely got that.

When the call came and he broke the news to me, I felt helpless. I expressed my sympathies, gave him a hug and we both turned back to work. I knew that's how Craig wanted to deal with it.

"I'm right where I should be," Craig said. "I'm so thankful I was here with my brothers."

Photo takes on more meaningful

I thought about Craig all the way home the next day. I couldn't imagine the hurt he was feeling as he and Janna headed to Texas to handle funeral arrangements.

It wasn't until I worked up the sunrise print taken the morning of Mrs. Norma's death that I realized just how special the photo was.

For some reason, I looked at the timestamp of the photo — and choked up when I saw the time.

5:27 a.m.

Three minutes before Mrs. Norma officially passed away.

I couldn't believe it: Craig, James, Janna and I were together watching this amazing sunrise as Mrs. Norma passed away.

Two hours before the funeral service was set to begin, I texted the photo to Craig with a note about the timing.

"Gives me chills," Craig texted back.

Yeah, me too, my friend.

So it is fitting that this print be named in her honor. I wish I had come up with the title, but it actually was Janna who told Craig she thought of that moment as "Norma's Sunrise."

It is a reminder that photos take on real meaning. They touch us deeply, bringing up memories, reminding us of loved ones. 

I am so happy I was there to capture this print, which will soon be hanging on Craig's and Janna's wall.

Love you, brother!