‘Tis the Season to Reminisce with Our Picture Albums

I noticed as I looked through our family albums this week that many who have left us still live in the albums, frozen in time, and in the hearts of those who love them.

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Sandy (right) making mochi with her family last Christmas Day, 2009
Sandy (right) making mochi with her family last Christmas Day, 2009

Friendship is one of the most precious of life’s gifts. Those friends we have kept up with for over forty years are irreplaceable. A group of friends is rudely reminded of that this month, as it lost the first member of this group to cancer on  November 30. She fought a long and hard battle, but the cancer finally won.You can read more about Sandy and her family tradition of gathering to make mochi on Christmas here.

Her family and friends and others she has inspired over the years are gathering to remember her the day after Christmas, and since they are getting together — a rare occurrence since we are scattered now over several counties and even   states — we are also planning a surprise for someone else who means a lot to all of us.

Our children, Sarah and Jason, Christmas, 1987
Both our children are gone now, leaving at ages 14 and 34.

This  surprise has us all thumbing through our old photo albums, as well as our more recent ones, and,  in the process, I’m sure I’m not the only one strolling down memory lane. And I’m sure I’m not the only one realizing that half my albums are peopled by multitudes of pictures of those who now live on a different plane. So it’s a bittersweet trip. Jason loved life and Christmas and left us while riding a jet ski in 1991. Sarah enjoyed Christmas more than life, which she chose to leave in 2009.

My mom with Jason and his cousin Bobby in 1990, Jason's last Christmas
My mom with Jason and his cousin Bobby in 1990, Jason's last Christmas

This picture, too, has only one living person left, my nephew — the one with dark hair. Mom and Jason are both gone. We lost mom to cancer in 2005. I was privileged to be able to help care for her in her last months, and I’m glad she lived close to me so I could see her almost daily during her last years.

Rich entered our lives in 1993 when we moved to our current home in

Celebrating a mini Christmas with Rich and Bobby the week the weekend after in 1994
Mini Christmas celebration with Rich and Bobby in 1994

Templeton, California. My nephew, Bobby, also spent a year with us in 1994, and we had a mini Christmas  celebration with Rich, who was like part of our extended family by then, that year. He is another dear friend whom we continue to miss at Christmas and every Friday night, as that’s the night we used to meet for dinner and Bible study together. This was taken during our small Christmas celebration the week after Christmas, since Bobby and I and my husband went south to Mom’s over the actual holiday. Rich left us in 2003. Rich used to say he didn’t take pictures because the picture in his head that is always with him, is better than any he could take with a camera.

With that in mind, what about those in our pictures still living on earth? Some may be casual acquaintances, but many will be the people we care most about. Do they know how much you care? Might not this holiday season be a good time to tell them? After all, you never know if it will be your last opportunity to reveal what’s in your heart. Whether you are 14 or 94, or whether they are, not everyone makes it to 70 — or even 17.

Pictures keep us frozen in time, as we are frozen in place in the hearts who love us. Just as my parents and I were frozen in place on this, my sixth Christmas, so

Mom and Dad have gone on, except in my heart.
Mom and Dad have gone on now, but this Christmas with them remains in my heart.

I still carry them in my heart 61 years later. The real album is my heart. It is there the pictures come alive bringing back laughter in times past, and, sometimes tears as I miss them, especially those who seemed, like Sandy, Jason, Sarah, and Rich, to go much earlier than they should.