I guess that title sounds a bit harsh. However, stick around for just a moment, friend and you will see where my heart is at on this subject. My father passed away at the young age of forty-five. Completely unexpectedly. It rocked my world. And going through the process of choosing photos for his funeral and being limited to just a handful because he was always the one documenting, always the one behind the camera, was heartbreaking. You don’t think about something like that until the person is gone. It takes losing to know what things are worth. Kind of ironic when you think about it. And do you know the one lesson I took away from this experience at the young age of ten? Get in the damn picture.
Now, to my father’s defense, this was before 1995 – the idea of a selfie was decades down the road. So you are talking quite the technical setup just to take a picture let alone be in it. He was a dad of three girls and too busy chasing them around in order to document their moments let alone worry about being in them himself. And who would have guessed that he wouldn’t have more time than twelve years in fatherhood to do so? Because there’s always time to get to this stuff… right?
I have clutched so tightly to that small, humble stack of tangible evidence that he even existed. Because you get 15 years, 20 years, 25 years down the road of missing someone and you start to wonder if you made the whole thing up. It feels a bit surreal. Like a different lifetime. But I think beautiful things can come from tragedy if we are willing to look for them. And one of those beautiful things is knowing, for so much of my life and earlier than others, how truly important it is to be present in the story.
And that knowing became a mission the moment I entered motherhood. It’s why I do what I do. Because looking at these little ones, having the thought there will come a time when I will no longer be here, makes me want to be in every photo so long as they have what they need when I am gone. That they have me in some tangible form. To look at a photograph and point out the same eyes in their own little one. Or the same nose. And to know that it was all real 15 years, 20 years, 25 years down the road of them missing me.
My dear fellow mothers and fathers. This is so much bigger than you and I. This is so much bigger than your self-criticism, the extra pounds you currently carry, or your awkward smile you hate. It is so much bigger than your exhaustion or complaining when your spouse asks you to get in the photo. Or the multiple photo opps at the family holiday party. This is so much bigger than all of that. This is our story. It’s their story. It’s the legacy left behind when we are no longer. Will you be in it?
Get in the damn picture…