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.)