Those of you who know me know I’ve been going through a rough patch due to the sudden death of a close friend. The tragic car wreck that took her life left her daughter and son-in-law and her friends stunned. As we have tried to sort out her belongings and deal with finding homes for horses and cats, we’ve also tried to find the best places to take her most important things. Some will go to charities, some to friends and relatives. But the hardest things are the most personal ones.
When people in the midst of disasters are asked what they try to save first, often it is family photos. These have no monetary value, you can’t eat them or wear them, yet they have great value to their owners, so much so that people sometimes risk life and limb to save them. But the thing is, without someone who knows who and what those photos represent, they are random pictures, pictures of strangers or strange places with little or no relevance to anyone not familiar with their context.
When my father passed away, we were going through a building used for storage of long neglected items and found some boxes of old photos. I took some of these to a family reunion so I could ask my father’s last living sibling, an older sister, who the people in the photos were. She knew some of them, but not all. I wished that I had known about these pictures when my dad was alive so I could have asked him to tell me the stories they contained, but now everyone who knows is gone.
In our home we have a screen saver for our computer that runs a slide show of all of our archived photos. I haven’t labeled all those pictures, but I think I should, otherwise we may in time forget the circumstances that the photos represent. There are lots of people who love to hate on Facebook, but I have found I really enjoy posting pictures of family and friends, of places I’ve gone and people I care about. It is a record not only of the pictures but of the context for those pictures.
Let me share this bit of wisdom: share your photos with people you love and tell them the story behind the picture. Give them context so they won’t some day just be random pictures that no one will understand or remember, stories lost for all time.
Image: Brother-in-law, Vestal, NY. By Father-in-law.