Happy 41st Birthday, Halis!

About a week ago, I had lunch with my dear friend and fellow photographer, Jim Counihan. This sweet man described a gift he had created for his best friend’s birthday. This best friend loves Maine but does not live here. So, Jim created a photo album full of pictures of some of his friend’s favorite Maine spots … and in each frame, Jim incorporated a Happy Birthday message to his friend. I loved this idea … and immediately began to imagine how I could create something similar for Halis.

Halis is not a huge fan of birthdays … and even less a fan of parties. He is a loving and loyal friend to many but prefers hanging with people one-on-one and not very frequently. (Do I need to mention that this is the opposite of me, who can’t go a day without enjoying a friend?) With this in mind, I thought it might me a great idea to bring the party to Halis in the form of a photo album full of pictures of his family and friends sporting handmade Happy Birthday signs. Turns out this was a fantastic idea!

I put the call out via Facebook, text messaging, and e-mails … requesting that loved ones take pictures of themselves … with birthday wishes for Halis … for inclusion in this project. And they did it in the most wonderful, creative ways! For those who preferred for me to take the photo, I invited them to meet me downtown to snap their smiles.

Pictures came in from Turkey, Haiti, & Canada … from his workplace … from his family … from old high school friends … from the local movie theater … from people who he hasn’t met yet.

Here are a few of the 70+ photos that were included in his birthday book:

Most made him smile …

Some made him laugh …
And these two … well, these two made him cry … 

Why did the above photos make him cry? He misses these people so much … and was shocked to see their faces in his birthday album, as it has been so long since he last communicated with any of them. The lack of communication was not for lack of want or love … but rather, due to distance.

The two gentleman in the above photo set are in Haiti. They are the directors of the St. Joseph’s Home for Boys … the place where we stayed whenever we went to Haiti … the place where Halis spent a month trying to bring Isaac home … a place where miracles happen on a regular basis. These are Halis’s heroes.

The two women in the above photo set are in Turkey. They are Halis’s paternal Aunts. They love him with wild abandon. They long for him to visit. And Halis wants nothing more than for them to finally meet his son, Isaac. These women have been through much in their lives. They are strong, they are resilient, they are a connection to Halis’s father … whom he lost at such a young age. These are Halis’s heroines.

Halis is not one to cry easily. In fact, in our 25 years together, I have rarely seen him do so. Clearly, this gift touched him greatly. He laughed out loud, he smiled big smiles, he “ooh”ed and “aw”ed, he cried. And he was so very thankful. To everyone involved. And so am I.

Thank you dear friends (and strangers!) for taking part in this. And perhaps each of you can borrow this idea as well and put your own twist on it. The memory of gifts, trinkets, and cards may fade … but positive experiences and gestures of love do not. This gift will be treasured throughout his lifetime.

With Love,

P.S. To see the entire album, minus a picture or two … click HERE.

Jodi Renshaw

About Jodi Renshaw

Jodi is a homeschooling Mom, a photographer, a wife, and a proud resident of the city of Bangor. She spends part of her time working at a locally-owned shop in the downtown area, part of her time homeschooling her favorite young man, and most of her time behind a camera lens. She often writes about adoption, family life, homeschooling, and community.