Live an intentional life, the power of photographs

August 31, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Every once in a while, life places you in a situation that serves as an epiphany. You recognize those moments by how suddenly and intensely they pass over you. Just recently one such moment arrived in my life in the form of the passing of a dear lifelong friend. I began my friendship with Edna, through my then girlfriend and now wife of fifty years, Patricia. We were quite young, in fact Edna was just fourteen at the time. Our friendship lasted a lifetime, and along the way gathered a rich patina of color and flavor.

Across our society, each of us has our own way of saying goodbye. Up front, is the extreme sense of loss. My life will be diminished by not having Edna in it. Even as I attempt to console the family, I know deep down nothing I might say will ease the grief. Arranged carefully around the funeral parlor are photographs that mark a lifetime. On a monitor, photographs dissolve one into another, with Edna's favorite ballads as a soundtrack. In this room full of emotion, it is the photographs we cling to.

The significant events that pass through our personal calendars are often marked with photographs. These photos gather their worth as a result of the passing of time. Often a casual photo, will not be thought of much at first. Decades later, it sits in a frame in a funeral parlor. There is Edna, and her father standing in front of a vintage automobile. It looks like the photo was taken in a rush, almost an afterthought. Now it helps mark her life. Another photo, in a back yard, Edna seated with two other people, all in the clothing styles of the day, sparks a brief smile even as we morn her loss. The slide show continues on the monitor and tears run down my cheek.

The job of selecting photographs for Edna's funeral was taken on by a small committee of which I was part. A brief search, and several boxes of photos found their way to the kitchen table. We worked our way to the bottom of each box, as we sorted through the memories that made up Edna's life. The emotion that coursed through me is difficult to describe. I felt hollow and empty, and yet still was able to smile at our foolishness captured by the camera. What a miracle it is to freeze a moment onto a piece of paper. Each of us selected our favorites. There is always one photograph that speaks to the person who selected it. The one special photo that shows the Edna we loved.

Every family has boxes like these, filled with treasure. Among those treasures there are a few that have become badly damaged and need restoration. I selected one photo of Edna that shows her full of life and optimism. It looks like a studio shot with professional background and lighting. Her pose looks natural and relaxed, her expression one that is familiar to me. An expression that I know well. Looking into the image only serves to increase my sense of loss. I cling to the photo despite the sadness. On the hard drive of my computer this image waits for me to restore it. I've started, however it's a tough go for me.

Moments pass, and are strung together bit by bit. Most of us have a casual relationship with the present moment. We tend to value the past, or anticipate the future. We live our lives in present time. Everything that happens, only happens in the present. Those casual photographs that you snap today, will gather value as the years pass. One day a rather small grouping of images will define your life, and will be treasured by people who love you. If there is a lesson to be learned, it is to live each day with awareness. If you become aware enough, you'll realize that you are surrounded by miracles, and people you love. Live an intentional life


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