He died in his sleep on January 14th.
I don’t have many photographs of the two of us together, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the photographs I do have of him. In the process of preparing for his funeral, as we were collecting photographs of him, I found myself seeing him and, in some cases, learning more about him through them.
Here he is, as a young man, probably in his late 20s. We found this photograph in his first passport. I see so much determination and resolve in his face. I also see my brothers’ faces and even a bit of my little nephew. My father was orphaned at an early age. He had to learn how to take care of himself and eventually build a career without the benefit of parental help or even a high school education. I keep looking at those eyes, looking away from the camera. Could he see who he would become?
Here he is, holding and feeding me in the early hours of my life. I see a loving dad, making promises to his little girl, resolving to take care of me. My father was not an overly affectionate man, but we never doubted his love for us. I love seeing this intimate moment between him and I. Could he see who I would become?
Here he is, probably at some work event. My Dad was a college professor for many years. He was tireless in his dedication to his work and to his students. He was a man of integrity who was respected by his colleagues. He was also a sharp dresser! As we were shopping for a tie for his burial, my sister and I kept laughing as we imagined how our Dad would react to some of the more outrageous options.
Finally, here he is, smiling at me. He’s in his study at home and this is how/where I know him best. My dad had a notoriously stern exterior and my friends often asked if he ever smiled. This is the first photograph I remember taking of him and in it he flashes his warm smile which I loved so much.
These photographs have taken on an unexpected weight, as he is now gone from this world. But is he really gone? Are our dear ones ever really gone from us? These photographs are a tangible reminder of his physical, embodied presence. Not only that but they act as windows to memories and even knowledge of him.
And for that, I am so very thankful.
Eyes wide open,