Grieve Leave Day 1: A picture is worth a thousand tears.
Updated: Jan 3, 2022
I'm kicking off the first few days of Grieve Leave by organizing boxes of old family photos and getting the scoop from my nana about who's who. Thrilling, I know. But the grieving experience so far has felt sad and joyful and productive, all mixed together – I guess that's all good?
There are probably hundreds of photos scattered in shoe boxes and folders and envelopes squirrelled away in my grandmother's house. Between the infinite duplicates of my ballet recitals and inexplicable photos of neighbors' cats, there are treasured pictures dating back to the early 1900s of family members and friends worldwide.
Things I'm trying to ingrain in my memory from today:
My grandmother's gasp seeing a photo of her being held as an infant. ("This photo is very important, Becki. Don't lose it!")
How adorable Nana looked while using her magnifying glass
Nana's morbid jokes. ("Oh that's [insert various names.] She's probably dead." Over and over again, with a chuckle.)
I heard stories today I'd never heard before about my late aunt, my mother's sister who died young. It's a different kind of grief to grieve for a close family member whom I never got the chance to meet, but when I see photos of my aunt I feel like I get to know her little by little.
I saw many dozens of photos of my mother and my grandfather I'd never seen before. There were even a few that I spotted of my father in the 1970s when he and my mother first got together. Every new photo gives me a new piece of a puzzle in my head - kind of like a flip book...they help me keep the people I miss somewhat fresh in my mind. I look often on my IPhone of photos of my father from many years ago to more recent ones, and now I'll have more to add to the collection. I'm happy to keep building a better, a more complete collection of photos of my mother too.
Today's grieving felt like I was doing something good for my (teeny-tiny) family by organizing all of these memories in a way that can help us revisit them, and not just keep them in boxes in a corner. I want to see and remember.
I wonder, though, if my grief in wanting to see and organize photos may be disturbing my grandmother's desire to keep things boxed up. Memories that might actually be very painful for her to think about and tell me about. But I'm grateful she's doing this with me...for me.