When you have lost someone you love, a photograph becomes priceless. A prized possession. One of the only things you have left of that person. It is physical proof that they were here at one point: walking beside you, talking about their hopes and dreams, breathing the same air as you. You cherish this photo because time stands still here. It is attached to a memory of the person you love. You can remember EXACTLY what they wore, imagine how their voice sounded as they laughed at your joke, the way the sun shined, how you had better days ahead. You will frame this photo, box it up, and keep it safe so you don't lose this person, this moment, this dream.
Death has no boundaries or preferences. He does not exclude the rich or poor, good or bad, young or wise. It will take a wonderful woman to cancer, a baby who has yet to see the light of day, a successful businessman, religious leaders, a nomad, and anyone else in-between. From dust we have been made and to dust we shall return.
And, suddenly, my only brother has returned to dust. I received the news late in the evening on Friday, July 28th. My brother had lost his battle to his addiction after sixty days of sobriety, joining many others as a statistic of the opiate epidemic. He was only twenty-six years old and had his whole life ahead of him. In his journals, he wrote about how much he loved his family, how he wanted to go to school, how he loved his son Tristen, how he knew Jesus was his Lord and Savior, how he wanted to get better. With a shattered heart, I accept that he is no longer suffering or a victim to his addiction.
While making the funeral arrangements, I am naturally given the task of putting together the photo slideshow. Many hours are spent scouring through old family photo albums, social media, messaging old friends for anything they might have. Each photograph embodies a specific time in his life: when he was playing sports as a kid, skating with his friends at the YMCA, the times he skipped school, family vacations, when he became a father, when he was a kid before the troubles of this world caught up to him, when he went to church and gave his life back to Jesus. I devoured each image, staring at them for hours. Trying to remember how his head is thrown back when he laughs, what his tattoos say, how his eyes reveal his internal pain, how he smiles when he is genuinely happy.
Fortunately, I always made my family take pictures the past few years whenever we got together for Thanksgiving. Nothing fancy. Just some photos of us all in the backyard. Now these photos are more valuable than gold, money, or jewels. I could have a thousand pictures and it will never be enough to fill this whole in my heart . But it is enough to remind me of who he is, how much I love him, and how I will miss him until I see him in heaven again.
Take the picture. Someone else may need it someday.