Last weekend I ventured to New Hampshire, but for the first time in my life it wasn’t just to visit with my extended family. My nana on my mom’s side had passed away two weeks before and the whole family was gathering together to have a celebration of life for her. In all my 27 years of life I haven’t felt a loss of someone close to me until now. I did lose my Great Grandmother when I was pretty young but until now Nana is the first of my close knit group of people I’ve grown up with to pass. I can still hear her laugh, I can still feel and smell her nana hugs, I’m still remembering how she would draw on my back to put me to sleep when I was really young.
Growing up so far from the rest of my family really put a shield over the idea that they wouldn’t be there one day. I never experienced seeing her sick with pneumonia or having to go in for dialysis. What I saw of Nana was all the love and laughter we shared in the small visits we would take up there every so often. But the truth of the matter is she had been fighting a hard battle behind the scenes for a long time I was just getting glimpses of it towards the end.
Before the hours of visitation had started at the funeral home my mom, aunties and uncles poured over hundreds of photographs that had been collected by the family; Trying to pick and choose which ones to display around the room. There was a slideshow playing on repeat that everyone who came to pay their respects stood memorized in front of. Memories of good times of nana’s life with all of her 5 kids and then of course her siblings growing up and all 16 of us grandchildren.
It was in that moment that the importance of a photograph really struck me. There would be nothing to look at that day if there was not someone at some time who thought “This would be a great picture.” And actually had a camera to snap it. So many memories that wouldn’t be shared or reminisced. So much life that would have long been forgotten. While we prayed our goodbyes to Nana and left for the mercy meal it hung on my heart how much I need to photograph my own life; and this isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way but seeing my nana’s life play out through photographs really brought the feelings back up to the surface. I think about how wonderful it is to be a photographer and capture these precious moments of all these babies for all my moms I meet and what an impact that makes on them when their baby turns into an adult. But what about the impact it makes on the adult that will someday have to say goodbye to that mom. That same picture is still standing – it’s gone full circle. Photographs really have a rippling importance in many lives and generations and I had been overlooking the big picture.
Being a photographer, at least for me has played this very strange trick on me. What I used to do freely and used to love to do I see as something I want to separate myself from when I’m done now. When I’m home I just want to put screens and cameras away and just be in the moment to soak in everything I miss when I’m either out shooting or my face is in my computer editing. I can count on one hand how many things of my own life I’ve photographed lately and that’s a problem… When I die what are they going to play at my funeral? All of the pictures I’ve taken of other people? A few of my instagram selfies? This trip really put all of that into perspective for me (again). I’m happy I have what I have but it’s not much compared to what it could be and the reality of that hit me like a dump truck.
So for the rest of day I took pictures.
I didn’t really think about it. I just did it. Some were of my family posed and some were just because life is too short. Who knows when the next time I will see my cousins who live in Texas will be. Or my aunts and uncles from MA. The next time I do see them they won’t look the same, they’ll be older with more smile lines on their faces. My younger cousins will be graduating and off making a life for themselves soon. Everyone changes and life moves so fast. Even just looking at Cohen now, he is a completely different looking boy then he was even just 2 years ago.
Photographs are so important. You can remember a lot but it will never be everything. There will be many very minuscule times you take a picture that you won’t ever think will matter and when enough time has passed you’ll be so glad you have it. Or someone you love will.