In the summer of 1974, while vacationing in Florida, my family spent a day at what was then a relatively new amusement park, Disneyworld. We would never return there as a family, but I have always treasured the few vivid memories I can recall. Most prominent is a memory of riding Dumbo with my dad. I remember flying high in that gray elephant, squinting to see all of the Magic Kingdom from our aerial view (seated safely beside my daddy). That visual is as clear to me today as it was 40 years ago. I believe the preservation of that memory can be attributed to this photo. There is an old tattered album at my mom's house where this treasure is kept and I have turned those pages hundreds of times. I believe that seeing that picture repeatedly throughout my life has imprinted that memory in my mind. As a matter of fact, every memory that I have from that day can be associated with a snapshot I have seen many times.
In the summer of 2012, my otherwise healthy dad, the same one who rode Dumbo with me what seemed like only a short time before, became ill with a lung disease that ravaged his body and took his life within 13 short weeks. It was a difficult time laden with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. But one evening, they allowed me to stay the night in ICU with Dad. It was a good night for both of us. We talked for hours of politics, gardens, and eternity. Afterwards, he slept like a baby. In the darkness, I managed to snap a picture of my precious Daddy, curled up on his side, comfortable and at ease for the first time in weeks. It was to be one of the last comfortable nights he had and I was privileged to be there. I look at that picture often and fondly remember the wonderful night we shared in the middle of a difficult season. As time passes, the pain eases and the bad memories fade, but this good memory stays clear...at least in part because of this photo.
Pictures matter. They are frozen moments of our lives. They help us remember. They comfort us. They re-center us. They help us prioritize and value the present. They mark time. Maybe you have a drawer full of pics like mine pictured here. Go through them. Date them. Label them. Scan them. Frame them. Scrapbook them. Talk about them. Tell your children about them. As the mom of three grown/nearly grown children, I can attest to the fact that time passes so much more quickly than we wish sometimes. Our minds will fail us, but pictures like these help us remember and re-focus. I also believe that not every photo is a keeper, and we must be able to discard unimportant or poor quality photographs to truly enjoy the good ones. It's all about editing...just keep the good ones.
In nursing we say, "If it isn't documented, it didn't happen." As far as I'm concerned, this applies to all of life. If there isn't a picture, did it really happen? In twenty years, you may not be certain. I, personally, I don't want to risk it. Have I inspired you? I hope so. Grab your camera. Print some pictures from your computer. Scan some old pictures. Frame a few and hang them up. Tell your kids about them. And by all means, invest in some professional photographs every time you can. Call me. I can help with that. :-)