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Monday, March 7, 2016

Engraved Images On Our Hearts

As I have written in the past, when I moved from Florida to Ohio I lost all my photographs: the photos of my High School years, my mother, grandparents and my babies.    When my mother and then later my grandmother passed away, I was fortunate enough to inherit their photo albums.    Although I’ve removed several pictures from the albums and placed them in decorative frames on my “Crazy Catholic Cabinet” and around my home, I still have a box of family memories tucked away in my bedroom closet.   It’s not a little box…it’s more like a big plastic tub that houses a collection of photographs spanning over 90 years.    My intent has always been to organize this chaos, but just like my life I chose to contain it neatly within a box.   Recently, I  took the box out of the closet in search of a picture I had of a childhood friend who had passed away.  I wanted to find a picture of us in front of our first lemonade stand.   I knew I was about five or six when the picture was taken so I began sorting through the individual plastic storage bags of memories I had separated by the decade.          As I held each picture in my hand, I started thinking about how precious actual photographs are.    In this modern digital age, pictures are taken for granted.   Everyone has an iPhone and pictures are taken and retaken until the perfect moment is captured.   We snap chat, tweet, Facebook, email and text digital images several times a day.    We have digital pictures not only of our family and friends but our food, dogs, cats, even strange bugs in our house.   We have sexy full body shots that we vainly took in the mirror.  We have embarrassing pictures of friends and loved ones.  Thousands of images are shot daily and sent to the invisible photo “cloud” in the sky for safe keeping.   Millions of pictures are taken daily, and  I have 90 years of photographs in a plastic tub. 

In the past when you took a picture you knew you had to get it right the first time.  You only had twenty or so pictures on a roll of film.    As a teenager, I was the official photographer of our group of friends.   I would be the one taking pictures at house parties, cookouts and birthday parties.   After the event,  I would race to the Kodak Picture Hut to have my film developed.    I remember sometimes waiting an entire week for the pictures to arrive.  I would park my car in the parking lot next to the hut and tear open the envelope only to find either a blurry, unfocused mess or a picture too dark because the flash cube didn’t work.        Photographs were precious back then because once in a great while, you were able to capture the moment perfectly.   You snapped the picture just as your baby boy smiled.  You caught your daughter picking a flower in the sun.  

As I sorted through my tub of photos, I was flooded with memories of my grandfather playing the guitar, family camping trips, my mother’s beautiful smile.     Over ninety years of memories contained in one plastic tub.   At first I was sad, I thought how nice it would have been to have the technology we have now, back then.   I would have thousands of pictures of my grandparents….my children….my mother.       Then I realized twenty years ago; we didn’t waste all our time taking pictures trying to capture the moment.    We lived the moment.   We snapped the picture, hoped for the best and moved on.  We enjoyed the party; we watched the dance recital, we cheered our kids on at their baseball games.    Instead of taking pictures of our food, we sat at a table as a family and ate dinner.   We talked to one another; we fostered friendships.  We took the time to visit each other face to face, touch each other, hug each other.   Now we are so busy taking pictures and posting them online that we have stopped being mindful of the moment.     I firmly believe that when my time on earth is through, and I meet the Lord face to face, he will not be impressed with time wasted taking electronic pictures and posting them to the world.   I believe that he will ask me how I lived the life he gave me.   Did I appreciate the beauty around me that he created?  Did I watch the sun rise and set?  Did I play in the rain, sing songs, make snow angels?  Did I love, nurture and protect my children?   Did I love, honor and cherish my husband?    Did I feed the hungry?  Did I help the poor?   Did I treat others as if they were Christ in my midst?    My point is this, as I examine my life I realize that hours have been wasted trying to “capture” the moment and, as a result, the “moment” has slipped by unseen. 

I found the picture of my friend.   I ran my finger over the outline of her face and held it close to my heart.   I remembered that day how we made enough money to buy potato sticks at the corner store.   I’m happy I only have one or two pictures of my friend because our time was spent playing hopscotch, catching lightning bugs and playing jacks.   We talked, sang songs and danced.    We didn’t need a digital device we lived the moment and engraved the images on our hearts.