Meet Frances-Kristina Rose Photography
Frances Kuhlbars is my gracefully brave mama, and she is, hands-down, the strongest and most compassionate woman on the planet. She is a woman of integrity, grit, and relentless determination when it comes to loving and fighting for her children. A little less than a decade ago, my life was in shambles. My physical health was diminishing at the hands of a grave prognosis, and my personal life was burning to the ground as a result of a treacherously abusive marriage. Two days before my mom’s birthday seven years ago, I hid in the bathroom and dialed her cell. That night my mom packed up my IV bags and barrage of medications under the harassing glare of my ex-husband, and we started a journey together that ultimately saved both my life and my spirit.
My mom wasn’t comfortable around needles and didn’t know the first thing about doing a sterile bandage change when she took on the 24 hour care of her 27-year-old daughter. From that night on, my mom forged through a long, dark night with me, simultaneously battling a neurological Lyme infection with experimentally aggressive treatment and my addiction to a man who, more or less, left me for dead. She learned to administer chemical IVs three days a week and fluids on the remaining four days. She cleared the path when it came to securing health insurance and footing the bill for everything insurance didn’t cover. She cleaned my central line weekly and managed all the medical appointments. She read books to me when I lost my ability to read. She purchased Depends when I lost my ability to control bowel movements. She washed my hair. She held protein shakes under my chin until I slowly, and with great resistance, sipped them up. But here’s the kicker, my mom did all this while she watched me grieve a man who’d assaulted and intimidated me in my weakest moments. She became an expert in Lyme treatment and insurance policies and a collector of every hopeful medical story she could find. While my mom fought moment by moment for my chance to regain my health, she wrapped her compassionate arms around my shoulders and covered me in grace.
Mom watched me as I struggled to utter sentences without ever losing hope. In fact, my mother was the constant physical manifestation of hope that I needed to fight and eventually overcome my illnesses. She looked me in the eyes when I couldn’t spell my name and told me, “You will get it all back, Emily.” To this day, I don’t know how she managed to stay so deeply rooted to her faith, both her faith in me and her faith in something so much bigger than the two of us.
Mom pushed my wheelchair through Kohl’s one afternoon (because she knew the power of a new garment to make a sick girl feel beautiful.) We were passing the baby section, when I said, “Stop,” as I pointed at a 12-month-sized, white overall dress with embroidered butterflies across the top. During those months of IVs, I was living for a future in which I’d become a mother myself. No potential daddy in sight, I dreamed of a blonde little girl at all sorts of ages and stages. My mom knew this. Yes, we bought that dress, and Mom hung it on the closet door. It was within my sight for every treatment, every protein shake, and every time I closed and re-opened my eyes. She believed in me, and she believed in my dream.
Years went by. This incredible woman stood by my side the day I married my forever life partner, a gentleman that, like Mom, was able to look past my health calamities. I wore her sleeved lace dress and veil and married my sweetheart in the butterfly garden that my dad had planted.
In the fall of 2016, my mom was diagnosed with carcinosarcoma of the uterus, a rare, aggressive form of uterine cancer. Two months after the surgery to remove her God-given, life-sustaining uterus and ovaries, I joyfully (and fearfully) stared at a positive pregnancy test (three, in fact.) I will never forget the day I watched my dad hold my mother’s hand and carefully guide her down our snowy driveway– wig, snow hat, coat, and all. Mom was in the midst of chemotherapy, at that point. I looked across the table, as she read the handwritten note I’d printed inside a children’s book called “Grandma’s Wishes.” When she looked at me, tears streamed down her face, “Really?!”
Short Bio of Photographer
(This is the remainder of her article. She was so passionate about her writing that I couldn’t tell her no. My bio below is short, so hopefully, it’ll work)
In 2017, she continued chemotherapy, and on her worst days, I studied her washed out face, searching for the hope she’d carried for me. I watched the chemicals ravage her body. I watched her lose her words and curl up in her bed, and because of her, I was able to dig my feet deep in the ground, witness the physical calamity before my face and hold faith for her big Miracle. “This is not my time,” she told me more than once that year. For most of my growing babe’s second trimester, my parents stayed out-of-state for radiation therapy. Two months after my Mom’s treatment ended, my baby, the child we’d dreamed of, the child that we’d held faith for during my darkest days, and again, during my Mom’s darkest days, arrived. We named our baby boy, Francis, after my mother, a testament to the Miracles that had taken place in both my mother’s and my body that year.
Today, my baby Francis is seven months old, and my mother Frances, is six months post clean scans. Both of them embody the childlike joy and belief in miracles that bring light to the darkest of nights. I’m wiping tears of gratitude off of my cheeks as I finish up this nomination. I am so deeply blessed by the continued presence of my gracefully powerful Mom, and my son will always know the power of being loved by her too.
Kristina Rose is a mom, wife and professional photographer for growing families in Virginia. She loves keeping things real and spending time outdoors with her family.