This seemed impossible. If it were not synonymous with a phone, I probably would have thrown the camera into a deep ocean by now. But in fact, there’s a camera at all of our fingertips 24/7. Still, that doesn’t mean I’m gonna use it. What for? What’s worth documenting now? Family tragedy? There is no photograph there.
I have the last photos that Mike ever took. He loved photographs. He is the only person I’ve ever heard of who actually took a photo in the courtroom when we got divorced. He was pretty jovial and said he thought it was a moment worth documenting. I am sure this sounds pretty strange. He also meant it when he turned and thanked me for keeping our last name; the judge asked for the record.
But Mike took the most pictures of his kids. All the adventures. Every performance. I guess like most people and certainly many dads. With the strange exception that, even on the day he died, he took pictures, knowing he was going to die very soon, probably even that same day.
Who does that? I thought people take pictures to share with their family. I thought people take pictures to make an album. I thought people take pictures so that much later, when we are very old, we can remember. So we can stretch time out for as long as possible. So that we can savor the precious moments forever.
I don’t know why Mike took pictures at the end. Probably because many people who might die of suicide might also live another day. And if they can live that one more day, then they might live many more days. They really don’t know. For a truly suicidal person, just about every day or even every other moment in a day is a discussion with themselves about whether to die that day. Whether to plan to live or to plan to die. Well, the pictures he took that day were for the Planning to Live Mike. The last ones he took were at his last birthday party, which was the last thing he celebrated.
Then no more photos.
At times, I would have preferred that all the memories went away, too.
Because now, good memories are bad just because they were so good.
Over the years, I remember taking pictures in pure awe that my life was so darn beautiful (to me). My kids and Mike, my family, were in the so darn beautiful category. Before the depression.
So, what next? When does one dig out the camera and start memorializing again? I wondered this for a long time. It felt like it would be forever. I just couldn’t do it.
Then, one day, it happened, out of habit. I guess I realized things are still happening… important things, special things. Life is so darn beautiful. It is so good to be here. It is so good that my kids are here, that we are healthy, that we are alive. It is such an obvious gift and it insists on being documented.