As you know I work with people who have gone through much loss. The type of loss I would like to talk about today is surviving a natural disaster. My sister, Pamela, lives in Ocean Springs, MS and her family and community are survivors of Hurricane Katrina 2005. Pam’s home was destroyed almost completely except for the skeleton. The foundation and sticks were saved and treated and all the rest (walls, ceilings, roof, windows, etc.) needed rebuilding. All of her possessions (clothing, furniture, mementos, appliances, etc.) were destroyed. Most of her pictures which held a lifetime of memories were destroyed, some were salvageable and some went through a restoration process. Many of you will understand the metaphoric closeness to losing a loved one and only having your skeleton left and having to rebuild your identity, dreams and lives.
It was a huge lesson learned being educated and taught by her and the community about the grief experienced when this storm hit and what it left behind. It was years in recovery; much to do with societal stigmas and anti-social behaviors as well as politics.
While there are a lot of elements I could talk about, this blog is about pictures. How important photographs are. As many things in life, we do not value them until they are gone. I am going to share a little bit of my personal history about pictures.
Growing up in a small town in Foxboro, MA, in the 70’s it was a simple time. It was country compared to living in Virginia Beach, VA now. There were tumultuous times in my family as well as some glorious memories: Playing red rover and tag in the yard until dark, building igloos in the snow and ice skating at Cameron’s pond, playing barbies under the mulberry bush in the front yard pretending we were camping, going for walks down ‘the path’ (part of the reservation) and riding bikes stopping at ‘the brook’, walking to school and having to go under the train tracks hoping the train wouldn’t come while under it. MEMORIES. Most of the pictures that were taken from my childhood were lost as were my favorite 45’s, my “Baby Alive” doll, posters of Shawn Cassidy and Tom & Jerry. My parents divorced and things got misplaced, left behind and forgotten about… including pictures.
Our Mum had ONE SPECIAL PHOTO ALBUM with many photos of us when we were really young. It was one of those ‘old fashioned’ scrapbooks with the black stick on corner holders to hold the photos in place, black ‘construction paper’ type paper that she wrote caption on with white marker pen and cloth hard cover both front and back. As I was the youngest of four girls this particular photo album stopped before I was two. However, us ‘girls’ were fortunate to have that ONE special album and when Mum passed away in 2001, two of the older sisters made ‘duplicate’ albums that were amazingly identical to the original for Christmas presents to all of us.
Throughout the years I have always been a shutter bug. From the simple cameras that took 110 film, to the Polaroid’s; the first digital cameras to now taking photos on my smart phone. I was extremely happy that I had been so ‘obsessed’ with taking pictures (as well as getting them developed AND making photo albums) as when my husband passed suddenly and way too young in 1997, I was able to sift through my albums to create last minute collages for the funeral. It really hit me that I wanted EVERYONE to know who he was and how he LIVED his life and not just stare at a coffin. Ironically, one year earlier was his 30th birthday and I had rummaged through his parents photos to find pictures of him before I met him when he was 16 years old. I had created a collage of pictures (taping them to a piece of poster board from Wal-Mart – nothing super fancy) and had it displayed at his birthday and everyone at the party signed the poster and wrote something special of the relationship they had with him. Needless to say, I had no idea how much this would play a part in his funeral one year later.
So… back to my sister, Pamela. I have been reminiscing through pictures of ‘us’ since Katrina hit in 2005; wanting to do something special for her with pictures, chronicling our lives together. But kept dragging my feet and not making myself do this as a priority until recently. You see out of the four girls, the two older ones were 11 months apart and stuck together and then three years went by and the two younger ones were 22 months apart and we stuck together; especially during the tumultuous times with our parents getting divorced and moving so much throughout the years of junior high and high school. We were and remain best friends.
Remember when I said we ‘lost’ many of the pictures growing up. Well within the last couple of decades or so, we have received pictures from our father. Woohoo! PRICELESS. It has helped to fill in some of the gaps, not all. So I have once again sifted through pictures… some in photo albums, some stuffed away in ‘special’ envelopes, some on old hard drives that I had to retrieve. In today’s day and age, we have such wonderful outlets on the internet in which we can upload pictures, scan pictures and even restore damaged pictures. Awesome. THIS…. is what this blog is all about.
I had such a great time creating a book of memories as a gift for my sister’s birthday. It has truly brought me JOY. A quality made book with MY pictures and captions, manufactured for a reasonable price to give to my sister. I have pictures starting from when we were babies on up to this past June when we were visiting for a family graduation.
Photo Book from Cynthia Gossman
Take the time to take the pictures. Take the time to hire the photographer for the big special events. Take the time to upload the pictures to your computer. Take the time to back up your photos. Take the time to make prints of your pictures. Take the time to frame your pictures and display them on the wall of your home.
Photographs play such a big part in living your life ON PURPOSE as well as HEALING FROM A LOSS. Much love and joy to you all and I thank you for reading my blog. Pay it forward as you never know who might be inspired or simple touched with a small ounce of hope that is deeply needed.