Updated: Aug 1, 2022
Works by Becky Wilkes
June 3 - July 30, 2022
Marlene and Spencer Hays Foundation Gallery
Seldom are we privileged to witness the final journey of love between our parents in intimate detail. Till Death Do Us Part shares the tender and mature relationship between two 89 year-olds reconnected following near death experiences. After 67 years of marriage, COVID-19 created an untenable situation for my parents. Mom was recovering from a recent stroke and was discharged to live independently. Dad suffered from congestive heart failure and was newly placed on hospice within the same facility. When lockdowns eliminated our participation in their care and illuminated systemic failures, we moved them to our home in Azle, Texas.
Although I had been in regular and increasingly significant contact with my parents throughout their lives, nothing could have prepared me for the transformation that I was to witness, not only in their health and mental state, but also their relationship with each other and my relationship with them. Almost immediately, I began photographing what we all knew were their final days together.
Upon arrival, dad weighed 106 pounds at 6’1” and Mom struggled to stand from a seated position. It was touch and go for a few weeks, but slowly they both saw recovery as a possibility. Newly reunited, I discovered my parents devotion to one another. Rarely were they separated more than a few feet. They moved as one unit canvassing the home and property with their walkers, often spooning one another as they slept.
Dad sought the sunshine, and was observant to the wonders of his world. He was immensely at peace being in Mom’s presence. Mom was more complicated. She struggled to accept the confines of Covid and the inevitability of their future. She often shared that she feared being a burden and dreamed of returning to their former lifestyle.
Following Daddy’s sudden death, Mom quickly faded in health and mental state. Simple tasks became impossible and lead to her death a brief two months later. They gifted me nearly a year to capture their story of love, fear, vulnerability, and intimacy with each other. Even in death, they chose to stay together.
Becky Wilkes lives with her husband on Eagle Mountain Lake in Azle, TX. Educated as a Chemical Engineer at Texas A&M, she chose to spend much of her life as a stay-at-home mother of four children who have blessed her with a multitude of perfectly fantastical grandchildren. Thus began her study of chaos and order.
Prior to being interrupted by the pandemic, Wilkes enjoyed success with her images of trash collected from the Trinity River watershed. Newer work drew whimsy with these “trashy” photos to re-envision a world without trash and include the beginnings of an environmental children’s book where plastic bits form whimsical characters. When Covid began, she brought her two elderly parents to live with her and her husband and began a photographic journal of their final year.