Early in their life together. Hank and Jan Wyatt had their portrait taken by a professional studio photographer.
The proofs, they recalled, were awful.
"We tore 'em up," Hank Wyatt said, "and laughed about it."
Their 38-year marriage is a memory book, its pages filled with laughter and blessings. Life has been an adventure, a joy ride, with Hank on his motorcycle and Jan seated behind him, the wind in her hair, arms wrapped around a man whose strength of character and bearish size made him seem, to her, indestructible.
Six months ago, however, Hank Wyatt, 61, seemingly in good health, learned that he has stage 4 lung cancer.
Without treatment, he was told, he might not survive until summer.
"When you get a diagnosis like that, you really don't know what to do with it," his wife said as they sat in their Arlington home.
"No one gives you a checklist of what to do."
The Wyatts broke the news to their children. They met with their attorney. And at Jan's urging, Hank agreed to have some photos taken of the two of them together.
They contacted Tiffany Chartier, a professional photographer and fellow member of the Community of Hope United Methodist Church in Mansfield.
Chartier checked her calendar and suggested a date.
Jan asked whether they could do it sooner, before her husband began his first round of strength-sapping chemotherapy.
The voice on the phone gave a bright, one-word reply.
'It was an honor'
On her business website, www.sglyphotography.com, Chartier, 37, a Mansfield wife and mother, says she doesn't just take pictures, which anyone can do.
"I capture hope, perseverance, love, strength, joy, courage and dreams."
As part of her professional services, she recently began booking photo sessions with those who are undergoing cancer treatment.
She feels a connection with those facing the fear and uncertainty of serious illness.
Her father had prostate cancer; her aunt, breast cancer.Chartier always knew that her dad is a strong man, but he redefined for her what true strength and courage mean as she watched him deal day by day with adversity. His cancer is in remission.
At 15, Chartier was also shaken by a medical diagnosis. She learned that she has retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited degenerative eye disease that her dad also has and that affects about 1 in 4,000 people in the United States.
The disease is a thief, slowly narrowing her field of vision.
"If I go like this," Chartier said, hands cupped like parentheses around her eyes, "that's what I'm seeing."
So, in a sense, the clock is ticking for her, too.
Already severely visually impaired, Chartier said her eye disease may force her to give up photography in a couple of years. Until then she is using her talents -- and the time she still has -- doing what she loves, what she sees as a kind of ministry. Her eyes, she said, are her "offering."
Chartier met with the Wyatts about two months ago.
After the photo session, which the couple enjoyed, Jan asked how much they owed.
"Nothing," Chartier replied. "That's what I do."
The couple had been unaware of her free service for cancer patients.
Chartier will tell you she is paid, handsomely, for her time spent with people like the Wyatts.
But her compensation isn't cash.
"For me it was an honor," she said, and in her mind's eye she still can see them, through her camera lens, Jan, in one photo, gently resting her head on Hank's broad shoulder and, in another, the two outdoors sharing a kiss.
'Two people in love'
Jan Wyatt wondered how she would react when she first looked at the images.
"I knew how much our life was changing," she said. "I didn't know if they would make me sad."
The photos delighted her and her husband.
They had prints made and sent them to family and friends.
"Tiffany knows what to look for," Jan Wyatt said. "Her field of vision may be narrowing, but when she looks at people she has the gift for seeing to the heart of who they are."
Jan beamed when asked what she sees in the photos, a priceless gift.
"I see two people who have been married a long time," she said. "I see Hank and Jan, having a good time, enjoying life. I hope when other people see them, they see two people who are good friends. Two people in love."
Hank, how about you?
Hank Wyatt started to speak. As his voice broke, he lowered his welling eyes in silent thanks for a rich life, well lived, with Jan, a good woman -- his greatest blessing -- at his side.
DAVID CASSTEVENS, 817-390-7436