This weekend I attended a funeral. It wasn’t for anyone I really knew — a friend’s mother, whom I’d never met, passed away suddenly from an unexpected illness — but my husband grew up with her son and pilfered Capri Sun from her kitchen in his formative years, so we made an effort to show our support to the family.

      I haven’t attended many funerals, and all of my recollections from those are fragments. My first funeral was when I was maybe 11, for a great-aunt I barely knew. When I was in elementary school I wrote short stories, and all I remember about that funeral is that my grandmother told me to write about it. But I never did…

      In 2005 I went to a friend’s funeral — she’d died in a bicycling accident; Rachel had been 21. I remember seeing the side of her cheek in the coffin before I had to turn away, that the carpet in the church was maroon, that the place was packed with old students from my high school and we drank Kool-Aid out of dixie cups as we teared up…

      At Walt’s grandmother’s funeral two years ago, I can remember only wisps of the eulogy, read by my uncle-in-law. The church was dark and the day was windy.

      I won’t describe this funeral to you, even though it was in a big, bright church full of windows and sunshine. What I will take away from it was that this woman was well-loved and had great purpose in her life. As part of the service, her family projected photos that had been taken throughout her life onto white screens, and I was struck once again by how important photographs are.

      It’s probably obvious by now that I think photographs are essential. Not even “professional” photographs… just, photographs in general. For instance, I have a friend who has a terrible memory, so he started a blog 10 years ago to host his every-day photos. I like going back to 2002 and sifting through his photos of Rachel, when she was still full of life and talked with her hands. When he took those photos, he didn’t know that one day we’d look back on them as we do now. The unexpected happens; when I was twenty I had no idea I’d soon go to the funeral of a girl I had had coffee dates with. Photos, even “terrible” ones (blurry, backlit, all-over orange), that show the way a person smiled a certain way, are invaluable.

      Dear friends and readers, take photos. Take lots of photos of your family, your friends, and yourself. Take them to stir up memories and take them so that people can stir up memories of you. Especially for those really important moments, like weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, but photos of everyday life are important as well.

      And also — without photos, how can we remember the way things used to be? For instance, I used to type on a computer that looked like a box… and wore awful iridescent jogging pants… and thought hairbands were cool… (Yes, this is me trying to end the post in a lighthearted mood.)

      1990s computer and fashion
      Photo taken by my dad


      Well said.
      Nerd alert: It’s a 386-12 built of junk box parts, cast-off pieces, and one (used) gift.

      This was amazing! Thanks for writing it and sharing it with us.

      So very true … We take the simple snap shots for granted. In our age of technology we should be documenting our life events all the time – its so easy to do, yet we don’t. Thanks for sharing this with us. I will try harder to capture those simple inbetween moments of my life too!

      This is so amazing. One of the best things I’ve ever read about the importance of photography. I always walk this fine line of worrying that if I get too preoccupied with taking photos of something that I’ll sort of miss it, I won’t experience it except through the lens. So I never take photos of our day to day life, and that’s probably not a good thing. My job is to document the important moments in other people’s lives, and yet I don’t bother much with my own because it feels too much like work sometimes. This is ridiculous. You’ve inspired me to take more photos of my own life, I think.

      Aw, it’s cute dorky Elissa!

      And Rachel wasn’t “still” full of life when Matt took those photos– she was always full of life! Now she’s full of it in our memories and, maybe, wherever she is now. At least that’s the way I like to see it.

      Elissa – your writing gives me goosebumps and moves me to the point of wanting to cry. I am beyond happy you are writing and so grateful that you’re opening up in this way. I loved this post – it is all so true… xo.

      Having kind of a hard time here figuring out how to say that I agree completely and love everything you said (without being depressing). It’s so true though that everything else fades. We have to document.