Veteran’s last days show bond between father, daughter

Published 8:02 PM EST, Thu January 7, 2016

Story highlights

Photographer Brian Driscoll spent time with an 81-year-old veteran before his death

The veteran's daughter, a nurse, was also his caretaker

CNN —  

Brian Driscoll envisioned a series of photographs: an aging veteran, maybe several veterans, and the health-care workers guiding them through their last days.

But as he sought out people with stories to tell, he met Edward Frampton, an 81-year-old veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and Christine Power, his caretaker and daughter.

“I wasn’t planning on trying to gain access to a house and a family. It fell into place,” said Driscoll, a photographer based in New York. “I suddenly realized the story is the father and the daughter and the bond.”

He spent about a week and a half with them in Cayce, South Carolina, in late 2014. He called them Mr. Frampton and Chris. The father had throat cancer, rheumatic fever and pneumonia; the daughter, a nurse, came almost every day to help him get up, bathe, eat – anything he needed.

Photographer Brian Driscoll
Brian Driscoll
Photographer Brian Driscoll

Driscoll said he hardly lifted his camera at first. Instead, he spent time visiting at the home Frampton shared with his wife of more than 50 years, Theresa. They talked about the past and looked at old family photos. He observed their routines and quietly watched Frampton’s favorite TV show, “American Pickers.”

All the while, he could see Power’s calm, tender presence: how she helped her father put on his shoes, how he smiled when she hugged him.

“She was happy to bend over backward to continue to work and do all these things with her chin up. She knew her role and she did it with this certain pride,” Driscoll said. “I thought it was really beautiful to be able to document that.”

Still, Driscoll had to consider every moment. What was too personal? What revealed the dignity of this father and daughter during a precious, difficult time? If Frampton fell, would he stand back and photograph?

“No,” Driscoll said. “I would drop the camera and help him up.”

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There were days when Frampton seemed tired and weak, and days when he felt strong enough to go outside the house. Driscoll joined the father and daughter on a drive to Frampton’s childhood home in Varnville, South Carolina. The house was hardly changed; it was still surrounded by the same soybean fields and mossy trees. His brother still lived nearby, and they were able to catch up a little and say goodbye.

“The full circle kind of completed itself in a way,” Driscoll said. “I was humbled by the whole experience.”

After leaving South Carolina, Driscoll had regular updates from Power. Still, it was jarring to get the call that Frampton died on December 14, 2014. His daughter was at his side.

“It was startling,” Driscoll said. “When something like that goes down, you feel it.”

Driscoll traveled south again to photograph Frampton’s funeral – the last images of father and daughter.

“I sent her all these prints, a stack of prints, and she was so excited to have this stuff,” he said. “It’s a treasure for her.”

For Driscoll, he said, “It was an honor to be there.”

Brian Driscoll is a photographer based in New York City. You can follow him on his blog, Social Documentary Network and Visura.