The first time I met and photographed Natasha she was very subdued, sitting in the church foyer with her large protest sign and a frown. It was winter. She was bundled up against the cold. She didn't move, even turned down the Sunday Friendship Breakfast. I asked about her sign, "Police Mess Up Everything." Why was she making this silent protest to all who came through the door? She was unresponsive. I never found out what this protest was all about.
Fast forward many months to the summer of 2015 where I met her and her partner, Kevin. She was happy then. Kevin asked if I could take their picture together. I did and offered to do some more shots of her by his car. It was a fun little mini portrait shoot. I could tell it made her feel good. The next Sunday when I came back with her the pictures, she was extremely pleased with them, as was Kevin. The pictures captured her spirit.
Several more months went by. I would see her at The Breakfast, sometimes with Kevin, sometimes alone, often seemingly out of touch and vacant. Usually she gave no indication that she knew who I was. But once, inexplicably, as she walked by, she gave me a warm hug, and then, without a word being said, walked off.
I saw her off and on over the months but we never talked, just a quick wave or nod "Hello." She often seemed off somewhere, dazed, not really present. I'm not sure why.
When Kathy and I walked into the first breakfast in May of this year the place was abuzz. "Tasha's dead! Tasha's gone. Did you know Tasha?"At first I did not make the connection. "No, I didn't know Tasha. But I realized that I did know Tasha, she was the Natasha I had photographed last year, and earlier with her sign. Now she was gone,way too soon, at 26 years old!
Kevin came over as I was standing in an alcove during a meal a few weeks later. "How?" I asked. "She was so young." A stroke he said. He pulled out a pink piece of paper and handed it to me. It was the program from the funeral service, and on the back side, a remembrance. He wanted me to have it. It read in part:
In loving memory of Natasha M. "Tasha" Da Silva Sunrise: August 12, 1991, Sunset: April 26, 2017
"On Wednesday, April 26, 2017, God was looking down on earth for a special flower to pick, and He saw his daughter was getting tired and weak, so God reached down and cradled her in His loving arms and brought Natasha home to be in paradise with Him."
Tears streamed down Kevin's face. He told me he came home and found her collapsed on the floor as she stepped out of the shower. He said the paramedics could not get her breathing. It was too late. She was gone. He hoped I still had those pictures and I assured him I did. I said I was so sorry.
Little comfort though, whatever the reason, for this young women's passing at 26 years. Way too young to die. Rest in peace, Natasha.