Monday, May 5, 2014

The Importance of a Photograph

I want to take a bit of time today to share my thoughts about the importance of a photograph….

Last night my Grandma passed away. I'm so sad and distraught and I wish I could be there to spend time with my family and say goodbye properly. That is maybe the hardest part. She was one of my favorite people on the planet. Feisty and outspoken and made the best damn chocolate chip cookies you'd ever taste… and as a kid she'd hand me a spoon and let me eat all the dough I wanted… literally a plate full, "go sick kid, your Dad's not here." She'd also call us "rotten kids" whenever we asked her to stop smoking and say, "if you don't like it you can get the hell out of my house…" Sounds funny now, from an adult perspective… but I adored her and the fact that she would say that to me as a kid. She didn't take any crap from anybody. She was unlike anyone I had ever met before. To this day whenever I describe my kids as "rotten" I think of her and it's all out of fondness and love, with a slight smile on my face, just like the one she had.

One of the most difficult parts about living so far away from any family is the distance… obviously that goes without saying. I miss seeing everyone, really knowing them. I have a really hard time connecting to people who are not right in front of me… it's sad, because these connections mean the world to me. It's something I really need to work on. It's magnified during a loss.

I want nothing more than to go and be there with my family and talk about Grandma Cookie and reminisce about the old days and how magnificent I always thought she was. How she is the sole reason I have never in my life tried a cigarette, because she smoked so much and it was the one and only thing I didn't like about her. How she was such a shining example of a woman telling you exactly what she expected of you and held you to it, none of this shy and delicate flower business. No tip-toeing around. You knew exactly where you stood with her. How even with all of that tough exterior stuff it was clear that she had a soft spot for her kids and grandkids.

I have vivid memories of sitting next to her at her old piano and looking down at her crooked fingers while she taught me to play a little song… Old Rugged Cross was what it was and she sat there patiently with me while I figured out the tune… I told her I didn't think I could play because I didn't know how and she reassured me that I just had to learn the specific notes and practice them.. I didn't have to know how to play piano, I could start by finding the basic notes of any songs I wanted. She taught me to crochet, even though she was left handed and I am right. She saw my determination to learn and figured out that if she sat me down in front of her I could mirror what she did. She made many blankets for us throughout the years. I will treasure these always.

So I can't be there for her funeral. It tears at my heart. But today I found myself digging through old boxes of photographs and I found comfort in them. I don't have many. I've never lived close to my family in South Dakota and since adulthood my visits with them have been few and far between… but
I do have some pictures and today I am pouring over them.

I think this is something that's very common when you lose someone. What is the first thing you actively do? Go through photographs. This is something you can hold onto. A photograph triggers a memory… captures a relationship… reminds us of a personality. Even the backgrounds of these snapshots, like Grandma's chair or the front porch that is seared into my memory... These are pieces of her frozen in time and I can hold them in my hands when I get sad and think of her. Never underestimate the power of a photograph. You may not realize it at the time, but they could end up being that one thing that you can cling to after a loss and hold onto forever.


  1. So sorry for your loss, Elizabeth. My grandmother passed last year, and it was extremely difficult.

  2. I am SO SORRY for your loss Elizabeth!!!
    It is hard to type this as the tears fall down my cheeks because you have written from the heart and it touches mine!!! We lost my Grandpa 2 days after Christmas last year and it was so hard for me not to be there with my family and not be there for the funeral too. Ever since I got RA, I have not been able to travel, so I have not seen many of my family for such a long time and I know how much that hurts. Keep looking through your photos, it is your link to this moment and you may find that other family members would appreciate a copy, maybe even use them for the service. I know it was my one link at the time and spent hours (actually it was days) wading through photo albums and packs of photos still waiting for attention. Treasure the memories your photos refresh in your mind.
    AND YES, I echo your call for us all to take photos, not just of special occasions or events, the everyday moments. The older I get, it is the everyday moments that I miss the most.
    Sending cyber {{{HUGS}}}

    1. Thank you! I feel the love. Your comment means a lot to me.

  3. Sorry for your loss Elizabeth! And thanks for sharing such a personal story.

  4. I am truly sorry to hear of the passing of your grandmother. Your post was beautiful - thank you for sharing.