This really is an incredible story, and it starts with two pieces of need-to-know information: Photographer Diana Kim wanted to document the lives of the homeless, and her father had abandoned her when she was only 5 years old.
Searching for subjects on the streets, Kim came upon a thin and distant man in rags who looked somewhat familiar.
It was her father. By fate or chance, she’d found him after 25 years. Her father had unmedicated schizophrenia and didn’t recognize her. She did everything she could to connect with him, but he refused treatment, medication, food, and even new clothing.
Eventually, he told her,
Diana, I am so sorry for not being in your life. I am so happy that you have a family of your own now. Do better for them…Don’t worry about me or what everyone says about me. If you want to make me proud and happy, be there for your family the way your mom and I never were. Stop trying to save everyone…just worry about yourself and your family. And don’t forget why I named you Diana, you are the light within the darkness.
But Diana refused to give up.
After suffering a heart attack, he agreed to get help and slowly took control of his own life. One day he called her out of the blue to invite her for coffee. Later that afternoon, she wrote on her blog, “I feel like I just met my father for the first time today.”
“I struggled to reconcile my feelings towards my father’s absence in my life, while continuing to care deeply for him and other homeless individuals.”
“Over time, I learned to navigate through my feelings of desperation and became more vocal in my community about my father’s condition and what it’s like to watch a loved one battle mental illness.”
He is now doing very well, and he and Diana are rebuilding their relationship from the ground up. “So long as we are alive in this world, every day is an opportunity to take hold of that ‘second chance.’ There is no failure unless you give up, and he never gave up. And I haven’t given up on him.”