Losing Kath

Love lost, read and found

Picture in a box and a thousand words

There is a reason I guess why I have not necessarily made my blog a forum of debate. When I set out to write a blog I wanted to do something different I guess, but mainly I just wanted to tell things how it is and hope at the same time I could connect with others who could relate or empathise or connect.

I still feel I have a duty to have a more open conversation on the wide ranging impacts of dealing with bereavement, losing the love of your life and dealing with everything else and everyone else left behind, and how that is as tough in a way to deal with, as was watching my wife’s rapid demise. Perhaps over time, I will broaden the scope of what and how I will write but for now I resist the urge to try anything different.

But this post I have written today, because whilst looking at a family photo of my daughter’s christening ten years ago, it brought back some things I had read over a year ago on another ‘bereaved singled parents’ blog, that I felt I wanted to at some point address.

May is a month of many anniversaries my wife Katherine and I shared over the years. Each occasion as special as the other and each of them preciously captured with photos so the magic of the moment wouldn’t ever fully get away. But they do! As well as getting married, all three of our daughters were christened in May too.

Ten years ago as we were planning Aimée’s Christening and we were aiming for May 16th which would have coincided with our wedding anniversary and with Hannah’s own Christening day anniversary too, but we brought the date of Aimee’s Christening forward by two weeks so that one of my best friends could attend. It’s funny the things a photo doesn’t capture once they are taken and eventually stored in a box or an album that nobody sees.

It doesn’t matter who, in the years to come, dusts off an old box and comes across any such photos and tries to reflect on what they see, what they see is only what they themselves project.

The stories behind every photo remain mostly untold.

Why this should be, is something we only come to acknowledge with a twang of regret once some of the people pictured are no longer with us to share the story’s relevance. Once you come to that conclusion, the picture’s fate at being almost forgotten and consigned to a dusty put away box, is sealed!

Naturally the memories shared of such occasions are not always lost on the many that helped make them and were very much a part of them but time slowly erases memories the way that time can cause a photo to fade.

In this digital age where we take photos of everything and in ridiculous numbers, we are over saturated with them all the time. As a consequence, who has time to look at anyone’s so many photos or discuss all the stories they tell?

Looking at a photo of me and my family taken on the 2nd May 2004 I happened to think how the photo didn’t tell the story of how 60+ guests came to celebrate the occasion with us and lit up our home and celebrated all day in the garden and well into the night on that day as they did on many other occasions too. It doesn’t automatically project how my house has fallen quiet since. The picture doesn’t tell the story of how little Aimée had just little more than 8 years left of ‘Mummy’, nor that her Daddy would be counting what he had left flicking through photos he once took. You have to project that part of the story into what you see.

Photos capture a lifetime of memories, each one stuck still in a golden moment of time and with it a part of that story is put on hold, waiting in case someone one day open a dusty old box and decides to reminisce.

As I mentioned, whilst looking at this photo and reminiscing, I thought about a string of comments I once read on this poor widower’s blog over a year ago that made me quite mad and compelled to want to write about but I promptly forgot up until now. I can’t remember the exact content but the gist of it was that this young widowed father with a young child after a couple of years since his loss, was trying to date once again and he had blogged some news of his experiences and difficulties found from some women on dates, in doing so.

Some of the comments in reply to his posts were really quite cold and distasteful and instinctively I decided that there was nothing of use here and I could not find any help on blogs such as those, even though they were being written by people in situations like me.

Some of the comments included things like criticism from some woman about him being so quick to want to date already, and others suggested he just wanted someone to fill the role of his missing partner and help with his child. Some said his posts were transparent and really showed he was just desperately using his blog to meet new people, and some not so nastily gave him some advice asking him if he still had photos out of his departed partner as that might put a woman off.

Well I never went back to any of those blogs annoyed by what I thought such stupidity and I still can’t believe that people would judge a person on such issues without having walked in his shoes first.

So I guess the rest of this post is aimed at anyone like me in the hope that they learn to listen to themselves and not be guided solely by the opinions of others. Back then I was offended I guess but now one and a half years after my own wife’s passing I think this:

People die all the time. It is a sad part of life. But death differs in every case and in every case the decisions you have to make are impacted differently. When and how death strikes determines what we do with the photos we took.

Some photos you put away because they were a tiny precious part of a time in your life and it was important to be able to heal and move on in your life with all or most of it in front of you yet.

Other photos you display proudly on the mantel piece of your loved one passed away because they represent the majority or all of the life you lived, and lived with them, and in the knowledge that in those years you lived all of your life and are not looking forward that much anymore.

But some photos find you stuck in the middle of life, and you have to look in two directions all the time. You look back, because a life up until now has been lived and lived in full, but you look forward too, because you know the journey that might yet come could be as long as the one that got you here.

Bereavement keeps posing new things for me to consider all the time. Sometimes and more recently, I wonder if my posting photos and transcripts project me as ‘crying in my cup’, as me stuck in a rut, or as I read somewhere on another blog, ‘are you still in that place’? Which to me reads as the ‘bereaved are toxic poison’. What kind of place is that?

As a man in his early 40s I look fondly on everything that has gone before in my life and the love that I had up until now. My daughters depend fully on me just as much as their mother Katherine does of me still. One of her dying wishes of me (like she even had to ask), was to keep her memory from fading from her ever so young daughters in the years to come ahead. I can’t suddenly start putting photos away, make them disappear into a box, so opinions can label me ‘not stuck in that place’ or ‘he’s made a fresh start’.

When and if a few of you look at my photos and then project; ‘it is me stuck in that place’, know it is not my photos in fact, but you, who puts me there!

To all those others on similar widowed blogs, listening to comments of others I would offer this:

Don’t run scared of your photos, they do not show you are stuck in a rut. They show you have lived and loved up to now with nothing to hide. If you have to put away photos to convince others you have moved on, there is something wrong there!

Why should love be any different from anything else?

A gold medal is only worth what it is, because you know it competed with those who won silver, bronze and many others. All great achievements and records are measured by how they beat everything else. A number one record could not exist if there weren’t a whole load of others too. Winning would have no meaning, if you were the only one in the race. So when it comes to love, why is everyone scared to compete? Why must you insist on this notion of being ‘the one’ when you haven’t had anyone else threaten your position?

If a heart is tugged in two directions and then chooses you, then you have something you can measure.

If a heart loves you and never has loved anyone else, how can you know the heart loves you more than another. Perhaps many a heart are happily in love, because they have never met someone who might compete for its affection.

If someone chooses not to love you because they fear the competition of ghosts, then they don’t love you at all, they just love the notion of ‘love’. When and if they are truly in love, they don’t fear competition because true love is instinctive not calculated. Your photos in life, are an advert for how you are able to ‘love’ and in what capacity, not a sign of you stuck in a rut or anywhere else.

We are who we are and who we’ve been up to now and putting away photos won’t ever change that.

I don’t know what my future holds or who might be in it, but I know what has been in my past, and I share it positively and unreservedly whilst looking forward to everyone else I will hopefully yet add in all the photos still to come.

No one wants their life forgotten or put away in a dusty box and their stories faded in time. Katherine, in this life may no longer be my wife, but in my girls’ lives, she will always be their mother. That is them ‘stuck in that place’ forever! How do you tell them to put that away in a box and make a fresh start or not to ‘cry in their cup’?

Invite people to love who you are, don’t try to convince them of who you might try now to be. One day their photo in your hands might mean just as much, and their story worth telling, and if it does you know they would have earned it.

That is all a photo is worth in the end; what you feel when you take it out and look at it. So don’t be in a rush to put it away in a box in the first place.

If you don’t tell the stories while you can, who will care about so many untold stories in an old dusty box one day when you’re gone?

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