from Laura Nye.... My father died three weeks ago.
The wounds are raw. I'm told that with time, they will begin to heal, but that there will always be an emptiness.
During his final week, when he was comfortable in his own bed with hospice care (shout out to the wonderful Midwest Palliative & Hospice Care), my brother and I tried to divert ourselves (we were anything but comfortable) by spending countless hours pouring over family photo albums, carefully prying our favorite snapshots off yellowed sticky album pages and sliding them our of plastic sleeves to assemble collages celebrating my father's life.
We laughed and cried over memories long forgotten, cringed over adolescent images we would have liked to forget, and ached as we gazed at pictures of my father's decades of youthfulness.
Do you know what I was thinking? That my husband proudly has 15,000 digital photos that live on the computer (including 100's from my son's self-portrait series of his big toe). I shudder at the thought of ever going through them, fearing that it will never be possible. What is going to happen when my kids want to look at their family albums? What are the chances that future technology will be compatible, that they will ever see these images if we they remain digital?
More and more of our clients opt to purchase digital files. We wonder what becomes of these images. Does the disc languish in a desk drawer?
It goes without saying that I am beyond thankful that it was important to my parents to document our family's life: to decorate their walls with professional family photos taken over the decades, even if they showcase me and my brother in matching outfits; or my dad's oh-so-stylish plaid pants; or my mom's bad 80's perm. (Thankfully, these portraits have found their way to the upstairs walls.) The more recent pictures: my kids as babies, then preschoolers, then skiing with the grandparents, are proudly displayed downstairs on tabletops and bookshelves.
And with endless gratitude to Laurie, there is a prominent wall gallery featuring my family, captured just after my father's cancer was diagnosed, when my father was still himself, when we were all together, and hopeful. Even though we knew....
The albums are tucked away, treasures to be periodically discovered, but the wall images (even those that I barely notice) are etched on my brain. The moments and memories are preserved, not just for my parents, but for me, my children and their children.
The lesson (besides that losing a parent sucks): Print your images. Cherish them. They are your lifeline.