Preserve your memories. They’re all that’s left you. ~ Paul Simon
A reader writes: My husband died in August of brain cancer. We were blessed to have a few years together after surgery, chemo and radiation, but that time was also plagued by a continual decline in his abilities. I am 45, he was 56 when he died too young. Our dreams are lost. Certainly I know he is whole and not suffering any longer but that doesn’t always lessen mine. I am disabled so I have each and every day to deal with my loss. A wise woman told me to throw my books away and look for my answers inside. I don’t have answers, but I do have a lot of journal entries and I thought I might share one of them with you:
A Roll of Film
I found it in my 35 mm camera — an almost complete roll of film. My heart did a few pounds more than normal — that camera hadn’t been used since the last time my husband and I went to Duke, three months before he died.
I remember the trip because it was incredibly hot for that time of year. Plus, I was bound and determined that we wouldn’t do our usual rush down and back, but find some time to use our cameras. It was something we shared and loved. How glad I am now that I was stubborn.
Our first and primary stop was the Butterfly Museum. It had become an oasis of calm for us already and we had visited before, but never with enough time to just sit and take the pictures we wanted. I can see my love wandering, composing his shots; it was always rare to find him without a camera, but using the full equipment was his joy.
Then on to see the Tobacco Museum. Mercy it was so hot. My husband wanted to look at all the exhibits and it was a day I didn’t feel very good. It was a Tuesday, the 25th. That is locked into my mind because my caregiver called from home on the cell when we were outdoors. My love wandered ahead while I dealt with some home emergency or another.
Now 3 months after his death I find this roll of film. And it scares me to develop it. But I shoot the 3 remaining pictures and take it to Wal-Mart. The prints will be ready in one hour but I can’t get them since I have been diagnosed with shingles and feel horrid.
So the next day I pick them up on the way back from taking Princess, my queen bee, to the vet since SHE was sick (I am seeing a trend here). And yes, these are my last shots at the Tobacco Museum. And some are actually good architectural shots. But one in particular stands out.
At the time I am confident this was a wave hello, or a simple “Hey there!” Now, it looks like a wave goodbye.
By the next week we would have our first 911 call, and by the end of June my husband was in hospice care.
Even with tears in my eyes as I say goodbye to my love again, how lucky we were that we never gave up, never gave in. Him to his cancer, me to my CFS. We may have been tired, worn out, but it is my hope that he died with memories of places and experiences that he loved.
There’s a roll of film in his camera that needs to be shot off, and I’ve yet to find his small camera. Surprises still………………
My response: Your story reminds me of the lovely words of Robert Fulghum, who wrote in his wonderful book, From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Lives, that “photographs are precious memories . . . the visual evidence of place and time and relationships . . . ritual talismans for the treasure chest of the heart.”
Then there are the words of photographer Libby Friedman:
Realizing the mortality of the moment,
I became a photographer
as a way to fight Death
and preserve those things
that inevitably become lost
as time goes on.
one moves on.
A photograph is forever.
And perhaps you’ll remember this, from songwriter and singer Paul Simon:
Time it was ~
And what a time it was!
It was a time of innocence
A time of confidences
Long ago, it must be ~
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you.
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Image by Tom from Pixabay
© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, BC-TMH