We Shall See - PhMuseum

We Shall See

Ian Willms

2012 - 2018

This is a photo diary about my relationship with my late father. The images span from estrangement to reunion to loss, photographed from 2012 to 2018.

I spent most of my younger years estranged from my father. Later, I came to see that he had been filled with regret during this time. He was a father who never knew how to be a dad. In 2012, we had a great reunion. On a cold January morning, I balanced my camera on a mailbox and made a family portrait of my father, sister, grandmother and me. It is the only existing image of the four of us together.

In 2014, my father suffered a catastrophic motorcycle accident. He was paralyzed, in a coma and breathing through a tube. The months that followed were horrific, but we found a deep, mutual connection within that horror. As I became his parent for the first time, we said a lifetime’s worth of the formerly unsaid. We finally shared that familial bond of unconditional love that we had both missed so dearly.

Friends and family often called asking what would happen. All I could ever say was "we shall see." Christmas came and went in the ICU. I bought him a watch to replace the one that he broke in the accident. The nurses took him outside on New Year’s Day. He said he never thought he would live to see 2015. I printed a copy of our family photo and stuck it to the ceiling above his bed. After five months, I finally burned myself out from acting as a full time caregiver and advocate. We shared a tearful goodbye. I was supposed to rest. He was supposed to get better.

His unexpected passing sent me into a depression that took years to come back from. In 2017, as a symbolic act of reclamation, I rode a motorcycle 5,000 km in three weeks. It was an intentional decision to honour my own love of riding and say goodbye to my father. The ride taught me that death is a necessary part of existence. It is not personal — death simply is. It was finally time to move on and look toward the future and the prospect of becoming a father myself.

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