murmureS des morts

A personal narrative of nostalgia: recollecting and exploring family, struggle, grief and love through loss.


 
 
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VINTAGE 'MOBILE

10th September 2018

This past Saturday morning I was in DTLA walking down Broadway when I spotted this beautiful vintage car parked in front of an old dilapidated theater. I stopped to admire its design and brilliant blue paint job when I realized that this vintage ‘mobile was a GTO. That brought me a little wave of nostalgia which made me think of my dad. When my dad and mom met, my dad had a GTO. They would go on dates in that car as their relationship began and progressed, and even drive off into the sunset in that car on the day they wed (it was the late 60’s after all). I recently found a picture of my mom in her wedding dress actually sitting in the passenger seat of the GTO and my dad is behind the wheel ... I think this was that exact moment of them driving off into the sunset after being pronounced man and wife. This reflection made me smile.


This was not the only magic of this moment for me ... as I framed my shot and prepared to pressed the shutter, I knew I needed another element to complete it. I framed up and waited. There wasn’t a great deal of foot traffic in that area so I had to be patient. Just then, a small flock of pigeons off frame was rattled by something and immediately took flight. Fortunately one flew into my scene and completed my shot.


Recently I posted an image of a woman named “Mama” and her flock of pigeons and explained the significance of pigeons in my life ... also conjuring up memories of my father since we raised domesticated ones in a coop at home when I was young. A quick recap here: one evening a white pigeon landed on our front lawn and my father miraculously caught it with his bare hands. We ended up getting him a mate - a beautiful and regal all grey Fantail pigeon with a little tuft of feathers on the top of her head that curved back like a little crown. Through the years my sister, the neighborhood kids and I got an up close view of egg-laying to young hatching in the lives of domestic pigeons. I was fascinated by it all, especially the eggs hatching, and must have been six or seven at the time.

The beauty of this image for me is not necessarily the composition and the moment/capture with the bird - I might not typically pick this as “my best shot” or one to share - but the coming together of multiple elements relating to my father was truly something ... the pigeon, the GTO and the adventure. This moment was so steeped in nostalgia that I just really wanted to share.❤️ © Safi Alia Shabaik

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"MAMA" AND HER FLOCK

21st August 2018

A little over a week ago, while wandering off the Venice Boardwalk early one morning, I spotted a woman sitting outside on a stool engaging with a large flock of adoring pigeons. The pigeons were competing for space to perch on her arms and partake of her bread offerings which she held in her hands, calmly and lovingly. It was obvious to me that this was not a one-time feeding but a cultivated relationship among her and the birds. I approached her to inquire about this spectacular relationship and also to ask permission to make some portraits. She agreed to the photos, told me that people around there call her “Mama” and that she feeds those pigeons everyday. She started telling me their names and showed me three that were domestic - she could tell by their coloring, their ankle tags and also from the fact that they weren’t maimed (they had both legs and all of their toes). She pointed to others who were missing some and explained why. We continued to talk a bit longer as I made a few more portraits and then her feeding session with the birds had ended. 


I think I was drawn to her because in some strange way this scenario reminded me of my father. We raised domestic pigeons when I was young. There was a walk-in chicken wire coop in our backyard when we bought the house but we had never kept any birds. Then one evening a white pigeon landed on our front lawn and my father miraculously caught it with his bare hands. We ended up getting him a mate that week ... she was an all grey Fantail pigeon with a little tuft of feathers on the top of her head that curved back like a little crown. She was regal and beautiful. They bred plenty so my sister and I (and the other neighborhood kids) got to watch the rearing up close - from egg-laying to the young hatching. I must have been six or seven at the time. 


With the recent passing of my father, it is really nice when these memories flood in unexpectedly. And I thank “Mama” for reminding me of some of our first pets at the place I call “home” that would be my parents’ settlement for the majority of their 50 wonderful years together. ❤️ // Venice, CA © Safi Alia Shabaik

*PLEASE NOTE: CLICK ON AN IMAGE TILE IN THE GRID TO VIEW THE FULL FRAME IMAGES*

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81st Birthday

2nd March 2018

“Personality Crash: Portrait of my father who suffered from advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease and Sundowner’s Syndrome.” // Yesterday was my father’s 81st birthday and the first one without him here. I anticipated that the day would be tough. It did start out rough for me ... hard to get out of bed and function because my grief was heavy ... so I stayed in bed and journaled for an hour. I told myself to just take the day little by little ... so by the afternoon I felt functional again. My dad loved sushi so my mom and I had planned on dining at his favorite sushi spot in our area. A day or two prior I had made a reservation for three. We took two framed pictures of my dad to fill the third spot at the table. I also brought candles (to my mom’s surprise) so we could properly celebrate his birthday. I lit one and put it on top of a piece of sushi and placed it as an offering to my father in the photos. We just let the candle burn down as we enjoyed the dishes we used to get together. We sang to him and blew out the candle together. It was a pleasant celebration and a yummy meal spent reminiscing about my dad. I miss him everyday. © Safi Alia Shabaik

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HEARTBREAK

2nd January 2018

“Personality Crash: Portrait of my father who suffered from advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease and Sundowner’s Syndrome.” // The beautiful being that was my sweet Papa took his last breath last night. Words are not enough to express what I am feeling right now. I am simultaneously devastated and relieved (he no longer has to suffer from disease). He held on to celebrate his 50th anniversary with my mom, he stuck it out for the turn of the New Year to 2018 and he waited for my sister and nephews to arrive here so we could all be around him for his transition. 


Rest peacefully Papa. Love you more than you can ever know. Thank you for your endless love, dedication, generosity, strength, humor, and guidance throughout my life ... for your determination to fight in the face of ruthless disease ... for your fearlessness in allowing and grand support of my documenting your struggle and journey ... and for helping sculpt me into the person I am today. I will miss you for an eternity.

RIP Aly Hossni Abd el Kader Emara Shabaik
1st March 1937 - 1st January 2018
💔❤️💔

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LIFE LINES

11th December 2017

“Personality Crash: Portrait of my father who suffers from advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease and Sundowner’s Syndrome.” // Life Lines. There have been several moments over the last week or two when I truly thought my dad was making his exit and taking his last breath. In those moments I tried to comfort him and let him know that we love him, that it’s okay for him to do what he needs to do and that we will be okay. Each time he pulled through and came back to us here. His grip on this world - his survival drive - is very strong and I am thankful for that. When I made this image initially in November, it spoke to me of his fragility in the aging process ... but now I see that it symbolizes the strength, endurance, perseverance and resilience of my father’s will to live. Even though his mind is caught between reality and hallucinations (from the sundowner’s and dementia), his body (whether rigid from the Parkinson’s or dyskinetic from the medicine) is still latched to this dimension and determined to stay for a little while. ❤️ © Safi Alia Shabaik

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THE GREAT ESCAPE

10th December 2017

“Personality Crash: Portrait of my father who suffers from advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease and Sundowner’s Syndrome.” // One day in early November, my father was convinced that we needed to go to “the place”. He kept insisting that I take him there but couldn’t tell me the name of it, its location or anything about it other than calling it “the place”. He was very passionate about going there so I promised him that the very next day I would take him there, but he would need to guide me as I drove. The next day, my mom and I packed a picnic lunch, got my dad in the car (no easy feat as he is basically wheelchair-bound now), piled in the car and took off. He led the way ... right on Ventura ... left on Fulton ... right on Moorpark ... and then he no longer knew where to go. Five minutes had passed. I drove to a park nearby where my parents had often brought us in my youth. We sat there in the car, parked under a tree, eating our picnic in the car. I knew there would be no real destination but I wanted to give my father this adventure as a gift and a scenery change from the monotony of his home-bound life. This adventure was worth the massive undertaking that it was just to see him perk up and feel a moment of freedom from this debilitating disease. I took a detour home - drove him along Mulholland - so he could see the pretty view and the valley from above. The things we do from a place of love. ❤️ © Safi Alia Shabaik

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ENLIGHTENMENT

15th November 2017

“Personality Crash: Portrait of my father who suffers from advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease and Sundowner’s Syndrome.” // I have only shared one post about my father’s condition publicly and the fact that I’ve been documenting him through his mental, physical and emotional changes. Now that more dementia has set in, I often wonder how cognizant he is about what is actually happening to him. There are fewer and fewer moments where his personality shines through (though we still do get glimpses of him) and increasing moments of confusion, hallucination, disorientation, and major disconnect from simple instruction and the tactile world around him. He has become my child that I protect and care for - I literally parent my parent. It is simultaneously endearing and heartbreaking, but through this journey I have learned the depths of my capacity to love as well as the profundity of my anguish. This image speaks to the loneliness of the disintegration of self and what I imagine it must feel like from his perspective. Made from a place of love and respect. ❤️ © Safi Alia Shabaik

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PERSONALITY CRASH

2nd October 2017

“Personality Crash: Portrait of my father who suffers from advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease and Sundowner’s Syndrome.” // I haven’t ever posted about my father’s condition publicly or the fact that I’ve been documenting him through the mental, physical and emotional changes. It’s been a very difficult and heart-wrenching journey to watch someone you love become so incapacitated and dissolve into confusion and paralysis. Sadly I know I am not the first, the last, nor alone in this experience. Today he spent 20 minutes telling me about something called “Personality Crash” so this image has been titled as such. © Safi Alia Shabaik

 
 

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