Two hours after this photo was taken, Jim Minnini was dead.
His final goodbye to Cindy, his partner of 24 years, was captured on camera by their heartbroken son.
Cindy had recently been transported more than 50 miles to Jim's intensive care unit in Kingston Hospital, Ontario, after it became clear he was dying. Both were on life support, and only Jim was conscious.
The raw emotion of that moment, and the rarity of it, prompted their 21-year-old son Chris to share the photo on the popular social news website Reddit - where it received thousands of comments. "Unless you're going to Hollywood or watching a movie you're not going to see anything like this," Chris said.
"This was the first time in the hospital's history that they've even tried anything like this but it worked."
indy100 spoke to Chris to ask what made him share the moment - and what he makes of the reaction. The following is a transcript of that conversation, edited for length and clarity.
So, what do you make of the reaction since you shared the photo?
I'm so grateful. I've had a little bit of a hard time and so has my Mum, obviously. But getting to read all those comments and seeing all of this support has just been so amazing. I find there's a lot more people who see the true love in the photo than people who are upset and think it's too private to be shared. For every comment that I've got that's like 'you're just trying to get karma, whatever it's called on Reddit' I've seen maybe 20 'I hope you're doing OK, my condolences, what a loving photo'. I think the responses went really really well - they helped me so much, I think it's helped my mother as well. To know that we're not the only ones who have been through something really tragic like this.
Talk us through the events leading up to that
My Mum was in a different city, in our home city [of Brockville, Canada], in the ICU. We requested for her to be sent to Kingston because the hospital that my Dad was at was one of the top facilities in all of Canada. We all knew that it was probably Dad's last go. He had already had lung cancer twice. - for eight years he battled cancer.
We went to Kingston and started talking to the doctors there and they kind of understood that Dad was probably not going to be leaving, you know, and they did everything to get her up there.
My Dad had been through over 45 chemotherapy treatment. There were really no options left. Our whole goal was to get Dad aware. He knew what was going on to a certain point but he was kind of out of it - he had carbon dioxide in his blood so that was making him really angry, really aggressive. When that finally toned down we were able to tell him 'Mum's on her way.'
So what happened once she got there?
His doctor got my Mum up there once they figured out the severity [of the situation]. So when they put him in the next room and told my Dad 'this is it, Cindy, you wife, is in the next room - we just wanted to let you know she is doing alright'. He couldn't talk - he was on a breathing tube - but he had a piece of paper and he was shaking writing 'MO'. They kept thinking he was writing 'mouth' like get this [breathing tube] thing out of my mouth, but he was writing the 'M' for Mum.
So they were able to take him to the other ICU room. When he got that across the relief on his face man, it was like three hours. Him trying to write on that piece of paper to write 'Mom'. Three letters. But because he was on so many drugs, this carbon dioxide was on his blood, and he couldn't really focus with that tube - he just couldn't get it across - but once he did he started crying and he was so thankful. My Mum was sedated the whole time through this. She was just on life support, struggling to breathe.
So what was wrong with her?
Within one day in Kingston they found out that she had had a heart attack and she was dealing with a lung infection. Which is why she had to go on life support. If she hadn't had the lung infection it wouldn't have been so bad but her breathing was already so laboured that with that plus the heart attack it was very severe.
So after your Dad wrote the note - what happened?
I was trying to get my Dad awake because he was on some heavy sedation. They had told him that Mom was in the next room and they had given him the option 'do you want to keep your breathing tube in?' Because he had this all planned out - he signed DNR papers, he stated 'once my breathing tube is out don't put it back in'. He didn't want any of us making that decision or any of us having to deal with that on our heads. They didn't want to have him on the breathing tube for so long because it was against his wishes.
They woke him up and told him everything - that he was on his last run, that Mum was in the next room, he said he would like to wait [to take the breathing tube out and to see her]. That night he had a bad dream and took out his own breathing tube overnight. Due to his own wishes they were not allowed to put it back in. That's why we went up - he had to say goodbye while she was sedated. There was no time to wait.
At what point did you take the photo?
That would have been May 4 - a couple of hours after he had pulled his own tube out and they put him on the mask. He was on his goodbye run right there. He was fading away, basically.
When my Dad passed she was not conscious. She had no recollection or anything. But he was able to say goodbye to her.
And what's the reaction to the picture been like?
I put the photo on Facebook first and the response was heartwarming. A lot of my close friends are on Reddit - they were like, just take some time out and put it up there. It'll probably make you feel better even if no one sees it. And it did, it honestly did. Even when I was just getting a couple of comments and no replies. When I put it up I was replying to every single person. I tried, I tried so hard. I didn't just want to post a picture and leave... But obviously it's been a little hard in the last day.
A lot of people have asked why I took the photo - I should have been in the moment and everything. But we took it because my Mum wasn't awake. We wanted to show my Mum [that in] Dad's last moments, he was with you. He was holding your hands. He went out with you. I wasn't just snapping a photo of a bad moment, it was just something I could share with my Mum. It's one thing to tell her the story, but it's another to say 'here he is, clinging onto life, clinging onto you.'
That's why people have cameras
Absolutely. I've had lots of messages calling me a karma whore on Reddit and stuff like that - or how I'm a disgusting person for broadcasting an intimate moment. But it's not Hollywood, right. The fact that that actually happened, my Dad was able to say goodbye and I was able to get a photo to say goodbye - that's not something that happens every day. That's special to me. The more people I started to tell they were like 'you need to share this with people'. It's something that we all have to go through, the loss of a parent. Everybody.
The negative comments haven't bothered you?
No. I have no shame in showing how much my Dad loved my Mum. Never ever, ever.
Why do you think people are making those comments?
I guess people see something as a grab for attention instead of trying to share something important. I understand that but I just wish they could see the photo and see that I didn't just take this photo and run home and post it to Reddit. My Dad passed away on May 4 and I uploaded it on the 17th. Most people when they die they get hit by a car or they die unexpectedly. Do you know what I mean? The fact that my Dad was able to lay in ICU with my Mum on life support as well and hold her hand and just be with her, I can't be any more thankful.
Some people said my Dad would be disgusted if he knew I shared that photo. I'm like 'if you knew my Dad he would be so appreciative.' If you have to take yourself down to one explanation of yourself, my Dad's would have been that he loves my Mum. I think that photo encapsulates that more than anything.
Is there a particular memory which you will always remember?
When I was a little guy, they used to have work Christmas parties. It would be like bring your kid and we'd all get a gift from Santa. One year Dad had dressed up as Santa - my Dad was a very loud, boisterous person - he was known for the line 'what the fuck'. He yelled that always. This year, they'd asked him to perform the Frosty the Snowman for the kids. I'm about five or six years old and my Dad walks up on stage in a Santa outfit that looks horrible on him. He shouldn't have been Santa. He sings the most convoluted version of Frosty-the-red-nose-reindeer, he had no idea what he was singing. He was mixing every single Christmas song from Frosty to Rudolf. I just remembered everybody laughing and singing along with him. He never stopped. Just because he didn't know the words to a song, just because he was making an ass out of himself, he knew that he was entertaining the kids and that was all that mattered to him that night.
How long were your parents together for?
24 years. They never got married - they were too lazy for that. They didn't want to rush into anything.