Tell them to just take the photo.
Last year about this time we sat in a restaurant trying to celebrate. The treatments had worked. They weren’t fun by any means—he had lost all his hair, became weak and skinny, and looked nothing like himself—but they had worked. Except we weren’t feeling all that celebratory. What did the future look like with our new best friend, cancer?
I sit here now with the holiday decorations up, the festive music playing, the loss still lingering in the air as these holiday memories come back to us.
The loss has been devastating but I feel lucky. Lucky because I have memories of over 30 years locked in these photos. Physical prints cover almost every wall. Boxes of photos fill the closets and cabinets. Our photos albums are thick with stories.
I'm a big believer in the shoebox of photos, those random pictures just thrown in together. It’s times like these when the shoebox comes out. The collage of places and people is held in the hands of each person around the table laughing and crying and reminiscing.
We all have that one relative that won’t stand for a photo. “No pictures,” they always state firmly. The reasons why are buried deep in feelings of insecurity, vulnerability, or even just plain self-loathing.
I’m begging of you—tell them to just take the picture. The shoebox of photos has become the camera roll on the smartphone, except smartphones die. Hard drives fail. Computers crash. And we have a way of forgetting the cloud passwords.
Tell them to take the photo. Once you have the photo, keep it and print it. Even better, hire a guy like me to come take the photo and make it nice. Keep the photos because in the end that’s all you really have of them once they are gone.
I’m lucky. I have all the photos I could ever want after 30 years of a life shared with my dad, Bruce. If he were here now, he’d be charming as ever, surreptitiously taking your photo.