Yvette Sanchez never imagined that her mother’s end-of-life journey would take center stage in her studies when she was accepted into the 2021 Master of Arts program at Academy of Art University. At the time, Yvette said, she felt called to capture the beauty, triumph and tragedy of life through photography. Six months before starting classes, her mother Anita, now a Housecall Providers Hospice patient, suffered a massive stroke. Suddenly, Yvette’s desire to reveal deeper truths about life through art took on a more urgent and personal quality.
“It was a sad moment but also a happy moment” she recalls. “Not knowing how much time we have left together is hard, but that makes the moments we still have all that much sweeter.”
Wanting to leave a legacy for her mother and her family, Yvette started compiling a family tree, combing through old photos, and putting together a book for her family of her mother’s life and history. And of course, she kept taking pictures.
Her first class, Concept Photography, required that she select the theme that she would eventually build her thesis. After talking with her mother, she chose Living While Dying. She would document the joys and heartaches of the human experience surrounding illness and death, using as the focal point her family’s experiences dealing with her mother’s condition.
Anita’s doctors soon decided that she would not likely recover and recommended hospice care. “They explained that hospice doesn’t necessarily mean she is going to die tomorrow. It just means that, since she does not want to treat her [low-level cancer), she can go back home and spend her time with her family.” And, as Yvette’s photo “Happiness” (below) shows, her family created much to remember.
Yvette made the decision in March 2021 to move her mother into her home. At the recommendation of the care facility, she called Housecall Providers Hospice. “They are such wonderful people who have been so supportive.”
She acknowledges that her academic program would probably have been too difficult if she didn’t know her mother was well-cared for and happy. “I really believe that all the care and love they have given my mother is why she is still with us,” says Yvette. “They have re-evaluated her a few times” to determine if she is still eligible for hospice care, says Yvette. And while her mother is unlikely to come off hospice, after a year and a half Yvette is grateful they’ve had so much time together.
Even in the moments when life is difficult, when Yvette is “drained” as she titled one of her photos, she knows the love and memories they are creating will resonate with her family for generations.
“I feel like having this book will bring joy to my family,” Anita says. “It will help them know where they come from.”
Yvette is also just a few months away from presenting her thesis work to her committee. She feels incredibly fortunate to have been able to share her program with her mother, and to have processed her own feelings through art.
“Paying attention to what is really going on around us is a powerful way to make the best of every moment.”
Selected photos from Yvette’s thesis catalog can be viewed at www.yvette-sanchez-photography.com