Today I met with and photographed Margaret Hajdinjak. As I drove to her home at Oliver Lake, a 20 minute drive outside of Thunder Bay, I realized that the true journey has begun. The journey of listening, talking, understanding, getting to know, photographing…survivors of suicide has begun. The idea that came to me over ten years ago has its first image.
The purpose of today’s photo session with Margaret is to capture images for the website.
When I pulled into the driveway I could see Margaret in the doorway. I was running late again so I’m sure her anxiety was heightened. I was greeted by, what I soon learned, was Steven’s dog, Tucan. Margaret, Adam and Steven Sr. (Steven’s father) inherited the dog when Steven died. Margaret and I had met a few weeks ago over a coffee and we have talked and emailed quite often so we are quite comfortable with each other. It was sunny and warm which made our walk around the yard very nice. The flowers and butterfly mural was painted by Steven’s cousin after his death…certainly a great backdrop.
“This is a garden I planted in Steve’s memory,” Margaret said. A picture of Steve, a round mirror and a few early season plants that so badly like us all want summer to come. Tucan follows us around the yard almost asking to be a part of the book.
When we go into the house it is clear that Margaret takes great comfort in photographs. Photographs and quotes can be found all around: kitchen, bathroom, hallway. My sense right away is how difficult it is for a mother to say goodbye, let go and move on, especially when her son dies by suicide. As Margaret talks through our tour of her home, and the home that Steven grew up in…I realize that I have been allowed into Steven’s life in a way that word’s just don’t fit. Although Steven lived on his own before he died…“his” bedroom remains. Photos (of course), boots, gloves are about the room and his dresser and closet, although dusty, could welcome him home today. Margaret acknowledges that this is probably not completely healthy but as each day passes she finds her meaning of being a survivor.
When we walk downstairs, she notes “That’s my favorite [photo].” Margaret seems to take great comfort in these surroundings and sharing them with me. We head outside for a few photographs and the true beginning to “Collateral Damage.”