Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wednesday Wonder: Just a Story of Love

I want to think seriously about what I can accomplish
with what's left of my life.
~ Edward Toledano

In late 2006, after his mother's sudden, unexpected death, Phillip Toledano became his father's caregiver, only then discovering that this once "ambitious" and "driven" artist had no short-term memory. Dementia not only had been stealing his father's mind, little by little, more each day; it was instilling a disquiet that left his father feeling lost and Toledano himself determined to make the most of the remaining time father and son might have together. 

They were each other's only family. Phillip Toledano is an only child. 

Toledano, a photographer who lives and works in New York City, turned to his camera to record his and his father's last shared days, creating a deeply moving photographic journal, Days With My Father, that he subsequently (late 2008) began posting on the Web. The site has been visited by more than a million people, several hundred thousand have posted comments; thousands have sent Toledano e-mails.

For three years, Phillip Toledano took pictures and loved his father. What he produced, he says, is not a story about illness or getting old or dying, though the narrative touches on all those; it is, at both its simplest and most complex, a love story. 

Edward Toledano died in 2009, in his own bed, in his own home.

I feel lucky to have . . . left nothing unsaid. To know
that we loved each other, nakedly, without embarrassment. . . .
~ Phillip Toledano

The photojournal Phillip Toledano created has been published as a book, Days With My Father (PQ Blackwell, June 2010).

Phillip Toledano's Website

Phillip Toledano on Twitter

"Off the Shelf: Days With My Father" in The New Yorker, June 10, 2010


Billy Coffey said...


Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

Thanks so much for posting this. I have visited the photo journal and been shaken by so many conflicting emotions that well up there -- despair, tenderness, beauty, wrenching sadness, fear, inspiration. Ultimately, it is somehow uplifting.

Winslow said...

This has inspired me to work on something my mother and I want to do: she too has little memory, is a writer, and continues to write. Her ideas about thinking in particular and her experiences of weather, or a plant, or an encounter, are unique and marvelous - like these photos. (We've been thinking about putting them together into a blog). Thank you!

Cassandra Frear said...

There are no words for things like this.

I think in heaven we will love each other like this all the time. Won't it be wonderful?

For me the challenge is to love like this now. How hard it is!

Eric said...

What a wonderful lesson on love and caring...glad you posted this Maureen...

Anonymous said...

beautifully done.

S. Etole said...

My mother lived with me the last 3 years of her life ... the memories are flooding me as I read and watch this ... and tears.

A. Jay Adler said...

My sister, brother, and I lived through this with our parents, except she had dementia and she died first. We watched them both die. And as Toledano says, you do need a sense of humor: I used to say the good thing about dementia is if you have a good conversation, you get to have it again.

An exquisite testament.

Hannah Stephenson said...

Such a beautiful, beautiful project. The love and pain in the photos is so evident.

It reminds me of that gorgeous Franz Wright poem, On Earth (from It ends:

How does one go
about dying?
Who on earth
is going to teach me--
The world
is filled with people
who have never died

Thank you for sharing this.

Louise Gallagher said...

This was so powerfully moving for me I wrote of it on my blog this morning. Thank you for this healing journey. Thank you for your light.