This past summer was the ten-year anniversary of the death of my son, Connor. I was struck by the inadequacy I felt about how to describe this very unwanted milestone that came faster than I would have imagined. I didn’t like the evident recognition of so many years passing since I last saw, hugged, spoke, and laughed with my only son. I struggled further when I looked for photos that I wanted to post on Facebook as I tried to express what was in my heart at that moment.
Photos tend to mark time and progress. Family photos are guideposts to our updated lives over the decades. How is that true when our child, sibling, or grandchild’s photos are frozen in time, and we will never have new photos of them again? Where is that meaning when we have a finite number of photos to recirculate that must tide us over for a lifetime?
Most of us long for new photos that would display the physical growth of our loved one who died. What would our child, sibling, or grandchild look like when they were learning to drive, graduating high school or college, or walking down the aisle in marriage as we witness their friends do over the years? How would they look when cradling their firstborn child in wonder?
We somehow still grow during these years that they are physically absent from us and from our photos. Some of us have other children who pass through all the beautiful milestones and marking points of their lives that we are privileged and honored to share. New things come into our lives that spring from the person we’ve become through our loss. We make meaning in our lives in unique ways that we would not have previously imagined. How we live in the world represents growth in honor of the lives we shared with them.
Perhaps when there are photos far in the future that they cannot be present in, their light shines through us in those photos even as their older photos age and date with time. Maybe we carry their light and their lives in significant enough ways that this helps us just a little with the pain of not having new photos. When someone tells me that I have a warm smile in a photo or an air of light in a photo, I know that exists, in part, because of the ways that I live from my love for Connor. May you find the shining light of your child, grandchild, or sibling, in your new photos, no matter how many years have passed, and may this bring you some comfort.
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