It’s both eerie and comforting how this photo keeps popping up on my computer, more frequently than thousands of others. It feels like a message.
I didn’t take the photo, and it’s probably not the way most people want to remember her. I was shocked and hurt the first time I saw it, because in just a few weeks, cancer had aged her about 30 years.
The next photo shows her a few weeks earlier, the day she married her long-time partner, Elvie (LV) Jordan.
In the third photo she’s healthy, taken maybe a year or two before the end.
Challis and LV were the second same-sex couple to be granted an early license to marry in the state of Illinois. Though the state had already lifted its ban, licenses were not to be issued for another six months. Both couples knew they did not have that much time. Challis and LV were married December 12, 2013. Challis died two months later.
I’ve never understood the supposed mystery of the “Mona Lisa smile,” but I find a message in my niece’s smile. She suffered tremendously in her final months, yet there’s a calmness in this photo that seems to say, I’ll be all right.
My Mona Lisa photo also says, Someday this will be you. I don’t know why that message comforts me, but it does. Her smile connects us still. Love you, Challis.