Acts of Kindness: The Last Portrait -- Sun-Times photos by Brian Jackson

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I spent a Sunday morning with the Santanas and photographer Timre Surrey at the Garfield Park conservatory while Surrey snapped family portraits, the last wish of Kimberly Santana, who has end stage lung cancer.

I hung back and talked to family members during the moments between pictures. Due to space limitations, not all of those moments made it in the paper. So here's the rest of the story -- in snapshots.


Kimberly on dealing with dying: "“I’m in a lot of pain and stuff, but talking with my kids, being with everybody, I don’t think of it,” she says. “I look at them and remember little things we used to do. Tickle fights.”

At the photo shoot:

Last Portrait

Kimberly's son Richard, 22, chomps on gum while pushing his mom through the palm garden and back to the lobby while his sister gets her makeup done. He says he’s excited, but that might just be for his mom’s sake. He seems almost nervous about what this photograph really means. “You learn that not many things last forever,” he says. “A picture should last as long as you take care of it ... I think I’ll be coming back here more often. It’s a nice place and it will be good for memories.”


After the first few shots, of the day Richard almost loses his balance digging into his pocket for a Dunkin Donuts receipt, and spits chewing gum into it. Nicole, 19, gives her big brother a playful slap, and he gently pushes pack. Kimberly laughs. Then they all dote over Kimberly — holding her hand, cuddling beside her and finally wearing wide grins — as the camera captures the action. She basks in it.

During a break, Kimberly's fiance Joe meanders away from the group. He says he doesn't like taking pictures, looking at flowers or wearing slacks. It’s boring, and he prefers overalls. "I’ve got things to do. I want to get this over with,” he says. “But I’m doing it for her ... I’m having a difficult time dealing with all this. She’s the only person I’ve ever loved and who has loved me as much. I hate thinking about losing her.”


When Kimberly isn’t looking, her kids stand shoulder-to-shoulder near a small reflecting pool. Richard pulls coins from his pocket, and gives one to Nicole. One at a time, the coins hit the clear, still water with a delicate kerplunk.

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Thank you, Mark, for capturing this wish experienced by Kim and the rest of the family in your words. It truly touched each one of us in the family and left most of us in tears. Hopefully, it will make a difference in the lives of your readers as they contemplate the importance of family in the midst of hardship.

Brian, your photos are breathtaking! Thank you.

A special public thanks first of all to The Fairygodmother Foundation , who orchestrated this event. The granting of this wish has been the highlight of what has been a difficult time for all of us. The result of this will be memories for us to hold on to forever.

To Timre Surrey and Lori made Kim feel like Cinderella. Lori, your artful hand in makeup erased all the signs of illness, worry, and stress. Your encouraging words meant so much. Thank you also for the gift of your book, "Facing The Mirror With Cancer: A Guide To Using Makeup To Make A Difference." Timre, your artist's eye captured the love and passion that is Kim's family. The location, the lighting, and your instinct to capture the right moment completed this Fairytale Dream come true. For those who would like to see the entire collection of photos, you can look at

At the present, Kim's health continues to decline at a rapid pace. She knows that her time is limited, but continues to cherish each day she can spend with her family. Her faith also sustains and comforts her.

Any contributions to Kimberly's final expenses would be greatly appreciated.

Donations may be made directly at any TCF Bank location to:

Kimberly Santana Assistance Fund

Or sent to:

Kimberly Santana Assistance Fund
c/o Lyda Jackson
920 W. Wilson Ave. #501
Chicago, IL 60640

Thank you for reading this post.

Lyda Jackson
(Kimberly Santana's sister)

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Mark Konkol

Mark Konkol covers city neighborhoods for the Chicago Sun-Times. You can e-mail him or call (312) 321-2146.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Konkol published on April 27, 2007 9:03 AM.

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