My grandfather, my mother’s dad, died in a motorcycle accident when I was one year old. I never got to know him which makes me sad, so I rely on stories and pictures to help me learn about him. The stories paint him as a loving father, grandfather, a hard-working man, a man who would move heaven and earth to make his wife happy, could fix anything he touched, a man of strong faith in God, and much more. I hold on to those stories and know, based on who shared them, that were true because they knew him in real life. They were his wife, his kids, his brothers and sisters. They all told the same stories about who he was, and I’m thankful that I have more than just pictures to tell me. They shared stories that reflected my grandpa’s true self, as seen from the eyes of those that loved him.
The old saying is, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words‘. I think that’s a true adage, however, what words are being said? Most of the time we see photos of people who are smiling and happy. It’s rare that we see pictures of crying adults, or pictures of people yelling and screaming at each other unless it’s tied to a traumatic story or disaster on the news – those are a much different type of picture. No, I’m talking about the ‘fluffy’ photos. Family snapshots and photos from ‘good times’ with friends at parties. Yes, babies and kids cry may be crying, but the adults are always the picture of loveliness – smiling, happy, not a care in the world. But if all I had were pictures of my grandfather, and no real stories, I would always wonder who he was, or what was behind the man in the picture. He always looked content in photos, but in the 1930-40’s, there weren’t many things you could do to enhance a photo. And back then, people didn’t even smile for photos, making it even harder to get a sense of who they were or what they were like.
Today, we live in the age of the ‘Selfie’ (and yes, I admit I have taken a few), trying to capture that moment in time with some sense of reality. We have digitally enhanced photos, Photoshop, and many other ways to change the original image. What we see isn’t necessarily a real or true account of who they are in reality, and that makes it hard to figure out who people are in real life. This weekend, I stumbled across a photo via the internet that wasn’t sent to me, but it sent me a very pointed message all the same. The photo? A beautiful couple – a husband and his wife. They were smiling, and seemed happy and in love. If I had to guess, I’d say they are probably beloved by many in their community and by their families and children. The photo was a glimpse into their life at that moment in time. The photo said, ‘We’re happy!’ It said, ‘We have the perfect life because we’re together and we’re smiling.’ It said, ‘We’re in love!’. All great things, right? Of course! I’m glad I saw the picture – it was quite moving, and made me smile. I was genuinely happy that they were together and had each other. It also made me wonder what reality was behind the photo? What was their story? Did they stop smiling the minute the camera was down? Were they fighting seconds before it was taken? Do they live as happy as they look? Wouldn’t it be nice though if our photos were a true image of our reality? That’s why we take them right? We want to tell the world that everything is okay even when the people in the picture, in not all but some cases, are hurting, sad, longing for more, or simply dissatisfied with the person they’ve become.
I have many photos of my family, my wedding, my kids being born, high school and college moments, my friends and my life since birth. I love to pull them out and reminisce about the day it was taken – what was going on before and after the photo…the real stories. Those stories, whether funny, sad, heartwarming, dramatic, or uplifting, are the most meaningful. Not the picture. The pictures generate emotions, and those emotions bring back memories. After we lose someone we love, or we’re forced to say goodbye to someone we love for whatever reason, photos of that person can bring us both joy and pain. It brings us closer to that person again as we remember moments of time being with that person, and then we remember the stories behind the pictures – stories that remind us who they were and what they meant to us. Sometimes, they are our only connection to that person.
Next time you look at a photo of someone in your life, or was once part of your life – whether it breaks your heart, makes you smile, or gives you hope…remember that it’s just a picture. It’s the untold story and the memory of that moment that tells us what we need to know and lives on in our hearts and minds forever. Take your photos! Have fun and smile for the camera! I hope the images you are sharing with the world are a true picture of who you really are. #storyinpictures #memories
Until next time…here is a #selfie from me to you. 🙂 Of course it’s about the coffee!