Life is short. This is a lesson many of us often hear, but so few retain. It’s easy to get caught up in life’s chaos and messiness, but Master Cpl. Byron Greff’s story is a reminder that it’s important to cherish the people in our lives who matter most.
Just days before the Canadian soldier was set to deploy to Afghanistan, photographer Erik Hornung took his intern, Laura, to Greff’s home to take some pictures of his newborn baby. While the experience seemed like a standard, run-of-the-mill photography shoot, little did Hornung know that he would be taking the last professional picture of the father with his baby girl.
Tragically, Greff was among 17 people who perished in an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, over the weekend. Following the incident, during which a suicide bomber slammed a van containing explosives into a NATO bus, the Taliban claimed responsibility.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has since offered praise to Greff for boldly serving his nation. “Master Cpl. Greff paid the ultimate price serving his country. His life and death serves as an example of the bravery and outstanding dedication of Canadian Armed Forces members on this mission,” Harper said in a statement.
It was just days before this horrific development that Greff was at home, relaxing in Canada and preparing to deploy. While Hornung originally had no plans to photograph the soldier, something compelled him to do so anyway. He describes what led him to take a family photo of Greff, his wife Lindsay and their baby, Brielle (emphasis mine):
After spending some time photographing mom and Brielle, I don’t know why, but I thought to myself that since I have come all the way out here we might as well get dad in the room for one shot. Again – interrupting him from his sports highlights and last moments of relaxation as he was scheduled to be back in Afghanistan in a few days – he agreed and joined his wife and came into the nursery. It didn’t help my cause that I asked him to remove his ball cap, and then bluntly telling him that he’ll need to go fix his hat hair in the bathroom. He came back, and I rushed through a few shots as quickly as possible to keep the peace between us. Immediately after those final shots Brielle started to cry, and cry loudly! We left Brielle with Dad to take care of business as I packed up my gear and Lindsay saw us to the door.
As terribly sad as the events have been, Hornung hopes that the picture of Greff and his family will assist, even to a small degree, in Lindsay’s mourning process. He goes on to write:
This is the first time I have ever fully realized the power of our minds, instincts, and gut feelings. As disinterested as Byron was in having his photo taken, something made me go through the uncomfortable efforts of interrupting him from his sports, taking off his cap, and fixing his hair for just three clicks of the shutter.
Below, see the last professional image that was taken of Greff and his family (minus one child who was in school that day):