Volunteer Highlight: Photographer Howard Ezell

Luminary memorial event photographed by featured volunteer photographer Howard Ezell

We are incredibly grateful for all the time and talent our volunteer photographers have donated to Alive! Their photos tell our stories in a way that words alone never could, showing that we are a supportive haven for families as they cope with loss and the end of life.


I’ve been a volunteer photographer with Alive since November 2017.

My connection with Alive began in the summer of 2007 when my father died in a fall from a ladder. It was unexpected. As I struggled with my grief a friend found out about a grief support group at Alive and got me signed up for it. My Japanese mother saw that it was helpful for me and stepped way out of her comfort zone and asked if Alive had a grief support group for spouses. I took her to all of those and she got a lot of comfort listening and sharing with her group.

When she passed away in 2017, I came to Alive for a grief support group and individual counseling.

I became a volunteer photographer for Alive when I took some photos of a night when luminary bags were placed in the gardens of the main residence.

Like many of their staff, volunteering with Alive is a calling. My calling moment came after I was photographing a butterfly release with photographer Jamie Adams. Her beautiful photographs can be seen on the walls of Alive’s main residence and their Franklin and Murfreesboro locations. She and I exchanged contact information and stories as we got done. Later that evening I received a message from her telling me that she knew my mother during the times she worked at a photo store that was right next to my mother’s gift shop in Madison. It was one of those sweet divine moments…

I photograph a lot of behind-the-scenes images that Alive’s staff can use to communicate how they are carrying out their mission. I’ve shot enough events and projects that the administrative and development staff are like family. Each time I work with them on an event, I’m reminded of my own sacred journey with grief.

I sketch with my camera. The best images come out as I shoot. What I am looking to capture is an image that conveys a feeling… often times it is what I am feeling when I take the shot.


These are some of my favorite images I’m taken for Alive:

Luminary, memorial event for grieving community

Luminary with the words Mommy. This was the first Alive event where I had a camera with me. There were many names I saw that night. Then I saw one with the words “mommy” on it. Yes, I teared up!


Ray Stevenson, supporter of Alive hospice patients and families

Ray Stevenson. Donor to Alive. He was being interviewed by Liz. It was amazing to watch two creative souls talking. I tried to capture the creativity and color of Ray’s world as a songwriter and artist.











Annie Sellick. I knew of her music but didn’t know she was a volunteer at the Nashville residence. Seeing her walk the halls of Alive singing and strumming her guitar touched my heart. The generosity of her heart and soul… The nursing staff just lit up around her and you could tell her presence brought comfort and joy to those around her.









Jesse Alexander. I love photographing Alive songwriter events! I was covering one night when Jesse Alexander started into a song called “I Drive Your Truck” recorded by Lee Brice. My eyes filled with tears because after my Dad passed away, I drove his truck for a few years… and that song later became a favorite of mine.







Butterfly releases. The butterfly releases are wonderful experiences. There is a mix of emotions on people’s faces. I see it all through my lens. At times it feels like I am intruding on someone’s heart, yet I know I am bearing witness to their journey with grief. Sometimes we get lucky and the butterflies stay around for a little while landing on people’s heads and arms! This image is one of my favorites. I’ve met this lady a few times and her expression of joy makes my heart smile.



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