Tuesday, March 01, 2005

photographs and memories

In a previous post entitled "writers & ritual," I fessed up about my own daily, pre-writing routine. For those who did not read that post and do not care (or have time) to click on the link in that first sentence, I'll give you the brief version: every morning, before I've composed a single word, I get myself coffeed-up and comfortable in front of my laptop and navigate to the online edition of our local paper, where I read the obituaries. I won't go into the "whys" of that ritual; for that, you're going to have to click on those blue words above. But now you know. I've bared my soul.

I've found the most fascinating information in that column. By reading through the life histories of the deceased, I've discovered plot ideas for my fiction, locations, and a wealth of names: Mozel, Maizie, Beulah, Winkie. I keep a file of these nuggets in a drawer out in my office. On occasion, I'll print out an obituary simply because the words written in that small rectangular space made me miss a stranger, made me wish I'd been a friend to that face and name.

While straightening my office yesterday, I went to put that file back in the drawer and a small square of paper slipped out and fluttered to the carpet. Picking it up, I saw the obituary of a woman named Lillian. She was nearly 100 when she died and she left a vast line of descendants behind her. But the thing that struck me as odd about that woman's memorial--both when I printed out the obituary and again yesterday--was the picture above the name and death date. Lillian sat straight and stared determinedly at the camera, with no hint of a smile or warmth of any kind, and held up ... a coffee cup.

I'm puzzed by Lillian's mug. What message was she trying to convey? What were her descendants thinking when they chose that particular picture for her obituary? I have to believe they had other pictures of the woman. What was it about this one photo that made them all nod and say, "Yup. That's Mom, all right."

I started thinking. If the paper put captions to these pictures, what might Lillian's say? "Lookee what I have here!" was the first thought to cross my mind. She looked fiercely proud of that mug. But after thinking of and rejecting a half dozen others, I've settled on this caption: "I'm sure gonna miss my coffee."

I felt kind of sad staring at that picture. I thought, "Aw, Lillian ... tell me your life amounted to more than this."

Listen up now, those of you in my life with photo-selecting rights: you're going to really upset me if you choose a picture like that for my obituary. I want no pictures of me holding the dice at Bunco, no pictures of me playing Spades on the computer, no pictures of me knitting or talking on the phone or petting the dog. Please ... catch me hugging a child or laughing with my family or reading my Bible or worshiping. Capture one of those moments on film, and you have my permission to attach that photo to my name and death date.

Your turn. What would you like us to remember about your life?

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8 Comment:

At 3/01/2005 9:27 AM, Blogger Nancy had this to say ...

I would like to think that I would be remembered for my sense of humor, kindness, mischevious nature and being a caring person. But really, the pictures that people pick are the ones that they look at and say "this is the perfect picture" because it reminds them of who you were. Poor Lillian that her family would remember her without a smile and holding a coffee cup.

Don't worry Shanny, if I had to pick a picture for you, it would definitely be of you laughing. Reminding of your infectious laugh that always causes me laugh (even in church), showing your warmth, and the person who always makes me feel loved. Unless of course, there is a picture of you on a tractor or riding a mechanical bull!!

At 3/01/2005 9:34 AM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Ha ha! I have no worries there. All my mechanical bull/tractor pictures are safely ensconsed deep in a vault in a secure and unknown (except to me) location. And I just swallowed the key.

Nancy, I'd definitely give The Herald a picture of you grinning. That's what I always see when I think of you--you're grinning and thinking of a way to get even. :)

At 3/01/2005 12:10 PM, Blogger HerWryness had this to say ...

This is a beautiful post. So many blog entries are merely informational, a few are thought provoking, yours are always emotion provoking. Would a man have thought of obit photos as you have, I wonder?

What do those photos say about our lives? More importantly what do our lives say to those who snap the photos?

At 3/01/2005 9:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

That I wasn't too scared to go where He sent me or too shy to step out and take every blessing He would send my way. I think we can't imagine what He has in mind for us and must get quite bold to recieve it.

At 3/02/2005 6:02 PM, Blogger C. Fish had this to say ...

I'd like to be remembered for how I treat others. I always have an open heart and open arms to friends and family.

I try very hard to help others and I really try not to be judgemental of anyone, especially as I can not know their circumstances.

I also would like to be remembered as fun, and a good dad.

I try to get in as many fun things before my illness makes me unable to do those things anymore.

At 3/02/2005 7:50 PM, Blogger Lori Seaborg had this to say ...

A photo of me in the garden or out in nature (God's Great Cathedral) would do just fine. I'd be surrounded by little children with smudges of dirt on their faces. There would be the animals around us, too: bunnies, chickens, puppies. If you look closely at the photo, you'd see that I have a notebook, pencil and a bit of toffee or a tiny Dove's chocolate in my gardening apron. Bliss!

(I've obviously got Spring Fever - I think my photograph might change with the seasons)

At 6/17/2005 10:24 PM, Anonymous OldGuy had this to say ...

I'd like to be remembered as a guy who loved to have fun with his kids, whether it be watching a movie with my son or catching bugs with my daughter so I guess a picture of me doing something like that would be good.

At 10/08/2005 7:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

Have you ever seen Asparagus this BIG
They grow up to 15in long and 2in wide.
gardening clog


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