Tomorrow is a Celebration of Life service for my aunt. A few days before Thanksgiving, she lost her courageous battle with cancer. After six short months of chemo, endless treatments, nausea, exhaustion, and more than anyone should have to endure, she was gone. In preparation for what she knew was coming, she made sure to share her favorite possessions: family photos. A few months ago, I received a bulky package in the mail from her with hundreds of photos, mostly of me. She had unearthed photos I’d never seen before: cuddles with cousins, me walking down the aisle as a flower girl in my mother’s wedding, my great-grandparents who had immigrated from Ireland.
I am the only member of the family who left the hometown a distance greater than a two-hour drive. Being a state away made me feel unable to adequately extend or receive sympathy. However, I did find solace in re-reading old letters from her, going through the treasured photos, and reading her left-handed notes scrawled on the backs. I found myself eagerly searching for photos of her. Out of nearly 300 pictures, I found 4 with her in them. Two were her with her siblings as a child; the other two were her as a young mother with my cousins and I. In one, she’s surrounded by her siblings, pulling a silly face, and is sporting an afro indicative of the ‘70s. It captures her love of laughter and her passion for family. This one is definitely my favorite.
I realized that night that I had something else to mourn. My aunt was always the person behind the camera taking endless photos capturing every memory of everyone else. I wish so badly that I had more photos of her, photos of us.
I’m a Gen X’er and confess I have somewhat scoffed the hundreds of selfies I see posted daily on Instagram and Facebook. I also have a hard time putting myself in front of the camera and am one who will delete pictures before anyone sees them. My arms are too fat, my nose looks too big, I don’t have makeup on; I constantly find flaws and don’t want this version of me captured. And how terribly wrong I’ve been.
I will positively treasure the few photos I have of my aunt and I so desperately wish I had more. As a mother, wife, daughter, granddaughter, niece, and cousin, I know my family would treasure photos of me if something were to happen to me. They wouldn’t see the hint of a spare tire,
a bad hair day, or clothing that didn’t suit me. They would see someone who loved them and loved life; they would be reminded of a shared memory or appreciate a glimpse into an experience they were unaware of; they would have a keepsake of the person they loved.
So, dear mamas, selfie away, and don’t you dare delete them. Be in front of the camera and record who you are. It isn’t vain; it’s creating a treasure for the future.
A Reno transplant, Fayth moved from a no-stoplight town in rural Utah in 2006. She’s happily married to an IT genius and has three children ages 12, 8, and 4. Fayth is the Executive Director for a Reno-based non-profit focused on garden education called Urban Roots and proudly serves on the boards of the Nevada Women’s Fund and the Sierra Chapter of the Association for Fundraising Professionals. When she’s not working or volunteering, carpooling three kids to three different schools, or doing endless amounts of laundry, Fayth loves hiking, watching horror flicks, drinking Mommy juice, and singing while cooking (much to the chagrin of her tween). Fayth embraced life in the biggest little city and, despite the multiple stoplights on her daily commute to work, loves living in Reno.