When my dad became terminally ill this past summer, my wife, kids, and I visited him and my mother with greater frequency than we had in years past. On one of our final visits prior to his condition worsening significantly, my wife suggested we take some family photos with him on the back porch of my parents' home. So, we all took turns individually and in groups posing, smiling, joking, and, beneath the surface, crying. In the days that followed, he became extremely weak and incoherent, and on October 29, 2020, he died.
The days since his passing have been some of the busiest of the year, with Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, and New Year keeping the family occupied and preoccupied. Only in the past week or so have things slowed enough for my brood to take a breath. In one of our rare moments of familial rest, my wife handed me a short stack of photographs, and as I started sifting through them, I realized they were from that day on the back porch. As I stopped to take in each photo, I saw a lifetime of memories in 4 x 6. In my dad's smile, I saw summer vacations, bike rides, and Little League baseball games. In his folded hands, I saw our many father-son building projects as well as our collaborations in lawn mowing and electrical and plumbing work. In his legs, I saw him running to catch me as I giggled away in elastic-waist pants and velcro shoes. In his arms, I saw the strength to lift me above his head and the conviction to discipline me when I deserved it. In his eyes, I saw love, joy, hurt, fear, and anticipation, all projected on the canvas of my heart.
Today--with these photos sifting through my mind--I sit down to write this article in honor of him. But the words do not come easily...as if trapped...as if captured by memory of light, film, and image. You see, his photos contain so little and so much, all at the same time. They are both explainable and indescribable, clean and mottled, and sacred and profane. To some, pictures like these are each worth 1,000 words, but to me--his boy, his son, his protege, his namesake, his friend--they are worth simply a loss for words.