Last week I asked what do you believe in, what do you have faith in. What I did not realize at the time is just how fitting that post was for me. My faith helped me when I lost my oldest daughter. I got through that because of my faith. This last week though I feel like I have been in a fog I cannot escape. On Monday I lost a man who was a friend and a brother to me, just as much as if we had the same parents. He was not a mentor, we were on the same level like brothers, we were equals.
He took care of himself. He stayed in good shape, he ate right, and kept himself fit mentally, physically, and spiritually. He was struck down by the big “C.” I spent my most of last summer and fall either with my daughter or with Graeme and his wife. I am glad I did, at the time we did not know how our world would be turned on end just 6 months later. I do not have many photos to show you we did not have time for that, we were busy grabbing life.
I do not regret that. I have already had a moment with my daughter that I chose to keep only as a memory. I grew up with Kodak telling us to pressure our memories in photographs. We always want to make sure we have photographs of those special moments. But, I have come to a point where sometimes, just sometimes, a moment is so special a photograph would take something away from it. Anyone can view your photographs, but something preserved only in your memory is private and personal. You can tell people about it, but they will never see the image you have in your mind.
The first time this happened for me was earlier in the summer last year. One of the things my daughter told me as we started our summer vacation was the one thing she really wanted to do. She wanted to go to Valley Forge and walk were her great-great-great-great-grandfather (George Gutekunst) walked. Elizabeth, my youngest daughter, has always wanted siblings she could play with. She reaches out for a wider family that she lacks and enjoys hearing family stories over, and over, and over again. I parked across from the field where the Pennsylvania companies camped at Valley Forge. We walked across the street together and then I watched her walk into the field, then she paused and turned back to look at me. I could see in her smile that she felt a special connection to George. This was a very special moment for her and because of that it was a very special moment for me too. I raised my camera to catch that smile. Then I paused and lowered my camera. No I would not take a photograph. This moment belonged to just Elizabeth and me, and that is the way it would stay.
I had never done that before, but it felt so right I never doubted it. On Monday as I sat trying to come to grips with this void that just opened in my life I thought about the time I spent with Graeme and his wife. I am content with my last goodbye, that was not bothering me – I said what I needed to without knowing this was the last time I would see him. But what I missed most were those moments the three of us spent in the front room looking out onto the world through large windows on three sides of the front room. We would start our morning with breakfast there. We would talk about our plans for the day and follow out conversation wherever chance took it. Then sometimes in the evening, just before sunset the three of us would close the day having coffee and enjoying each other’s company in the same front room – our window on the world.
As I thought about that Monday evening while trying to come to grips with my “new normal” I felt, at first, I wish I had a photograph of the three of us together in that front room. As my thoughts flowed to my daughter I realized something. Everything is as it should be, there should be no photograph. Those moments, the time we gathered around the small table to view the world and enjoy each other, those were special moments. Those moments were not just special they were personal and now they always will be. I do not have to worry about the image fading on paper or damage happening to the paper. I do not have to worry about losing the images on my USB. Any time I want to return to those moments I have the images where they are safe from damage – in my mind.
I miss my brother. My faith was shaken, but it is still intact just as he would want it to be. I will find a new normal, and I will continue forward, just as he would want. And when I need them I will always have those “Kodak moments” right where they belong – in my mind where they are always available and always fresh.