HERE ALWAYS

In Memory keeping, Portraiture
Here are the last photographs I took of my father, sometime in December of last year.

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,
Chinwe

20 Comments

  1. What a beautiful collection of images, Chinwe. I smiled so big as I got to that last one of him smiling.
    Thank you for sharing such special images with us today.
    I’m glad knowing you have these windows to memory and love. xo

  2. What a beautiful tribute to your handsome and loving father. The wonder of photography is in preserving such memories for all of us!

  3. Such a wonderful, layered tribute to your father, Chinwe. Thank you for sharing these photos. I think we carry them with us, always.

  4. This post gives me pause in the way that paying attention always does. The people we love shape us and hold us – forever. And the beauty of pictures lies in this very fact – the transient nature of it all. It’s worth noting that pictures, even a few treasured ones, really do tell the story of our lives. Thank you for sharing this piece of your heart.

    • Thanks so much, Donna. Stopped over at your blog again today and…talk about pausing to pay attention! Your work is so lovely. Thanks again <3

  5. Chinwe, your words are so moving. And the photos – THE PHOTOS! The magic of memory keeping and leaving a legacy right there. The different expressions of your father coupled with your words moved me to tears. Truly beautiful x

  6. Complete heartbreak. Also because my father died many, many years ago and some new photos of him just surfaced. Sooooo many memories.

  7. There were tears in my eyes by the time I got to the part of him holding and feeding you when you were a baby. That picture oozes affection! And that was ages ago when many Nigerian men dint carry and feed babies…Thank God for the ‘little’ time you had with him. Your words remind me of parts of the poem ‘All is well’:
    Death is nothing at all
    I have only slipped away to the next room…
    Whatever we were to each other, that we still are. Call me by my old familiar name
    Speak to me in the easy way which you always used
    Put no difference into your tone
    Wear no forced air or solemnity or sorrow (although the sorrow part is hard!).
    Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together
    Play, smile and think of me….
    Let my name be ever the household word that it always was
    Let it be spoken without effect
    Without the trace of a shadow on it
    Life means all that it ever meant …
    There is absolute unbroken continuity
    Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?…..

  8. Our loved ones are always with us, Chinwe. I believe it 100%. I hope it gives you comfort as you move through the layers of grief. xoxo Deb

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